JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela went home in an ambulance on Sunday after nearly three months in a hospital that became the focus of a global outpouring of concern, but authorities said the health of the former South African president remained critical and sometimes unstable.
The return of the 95-year-old leader of the anti-apartheid movement to his home in an affluent neighborhood of Johannesburg allows his family to share time with him in a more intimate setting.
The office of South African President Jacob Zuma said Mandela will receive the same level of intensive care that he did in the hospital, administered by the same doctors.
Mandela had been treated in a hospital in Pretoria, about 31 miles from Johannesburg, and the areas near the entrances to both the hospital and his home became makeshift shrines where people sang, prayed and left messages of support for a man who steered South Africa from white minority rule to democratic rule in a spirit of reconciliation that inspired the world.
Mandela was admitted to the hospital on June 8 for what the government described as a recurring lung infection. Legal papers filed by his family said he was on life support, and many South Africans feared the man widely viewed as the “father of the nation” was close to death.
One of Mandela’s daughters, Makaziwe Mandela, told The Associated Press as she left her father’s home that the family was “happy that he is home.”
Another Mandela family member, grandson Mandla Mandela, said the former president’s return home was a “day of celebration.”
Mandela’s discharge was “particularly heartening because it flies in the face of those who have been busy spreading lies that he was in a ‘vegetative state’ and just waiting for his support machines to be switched off,” the South African Press Association quoted Mandla Mandela as saying.
Mandla Mandela, the oldest male Mandela heir, has feuded with family members over the burial site of the anti-apartheid leader’s three deceased children and it was unclear whether his remarks reflected the views of other relatives.
The African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party, welcomed the hospital discharge of its former leader.
“We believe that receiving treatment at home will afford him continuous support from his family and loved ones,” it said in a statement.
Zuma’s office said Mandela “vacillated between serious to critical and at times unstable” during his stay in hospital and that “despite the difficulties imposed by his various illnesses, he, as always, displays immense grace and fortitude.”
It added: “Madiba has been treated by a large medical team from the military, academia, private sector and other public health spheres. We thank all the health professionals at the hospital for their dedication.”