For many among South Africa’s more than 50 million people who see Nelson Mandela almost as a family member, this is a particularly difficult time.
Ever since his latest admission to hospital more than two weeks ago, well-wishers have continued to leave messages outside.
South Africans have been told not to hold out “false hopes” for the former president’s recovery. Even so, some people passing by the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria tried to be optimistic.
“I’m hoping he gets well, he is in our prayers every time so hopefully he will get better,” said Nerissa, a local resident.
“We are in a terrible situation because all of us now are just praying for God bless him so that he can recover because that man is so important to us. Without him, I think all of us be in very critical condition,” added Alex Siake, who also lives locally.
Another woman hinted at many people’s fears and hopes over a future without Mandela: “If he dies, then maybe there will be fights again, but on the other side, I think we will go forward,” she said.
Goodwill messages have also been left outside the former president’s home in Johannesburg.
Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe has appealed for the family’s privacy to be respected, saying at the weekend that this was a sacred time for his close relatives.