JOHANNESBURG ‚?? Inside a Catholic church that once served as a major rallying point for anti-apartheid activists, the image of a gray-suited Nelson Mandela appears in stained-glass window that also features angels and the cross.
Worshippers here prayed Sunday for the hospitalized 94-year-old former president, who remains almost a secular saint and a father figure to many in South Africa, a nation of 50 million people that has Africa‚??s top economy.
Mandela‚??s admission to the hospital this weekend for unspecified medical tests sparked screaming newspaper headlines and ripples of fear in the public that the frail leader is fading further away.
And as his African National Congress political party stands ready to pick its leader who likely will be the nation‚??s next president, some believe governing party politicians have abandoned Mandela‚??s integrity and magnanimity in a seemingly unending string of corruption scandals. That leaves many wondering who can lead the country the way the ailing Mandela once did.
‚??When you have someone that‚??s willing to lead by example like he did, it makes things easier for people to follow,‚?Ě said Thabile Manana, who worshipped Sunday at Soweto‚??s Regina Mundi Catholic church. ‚??Lately, the examples are not so nice. It‚??s hard. I‚??m scared for the country.‚?Ě
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, became South Africa‚??s first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term. The Nobel laureate later retired from public life to live in his remote village of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape area, and last made a public appearance when his country hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.
On Saturday, the office of President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela had been admitted to a Pretoria hospital for medical tests and care that was ‚??consistent for his age.‚?Ě