JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Nelson Mandela, the former freedom fighter and South Africa's first democratically elected president, now lives at home in a sterilized bedroom rigged as an intensive care unit. A team of doctors attends to him around the clock.
And in a stark reminder of Mandela's ongoing health crisis, grandson Ndaba Mandela and daughter Makaziwe Mandela told South African journalists Tuesday that the 95-year-old was struggling.
"He is still with us, although he is not doing well at home in bed," Ndaba Mandela said.
Makaziwe Mandela told state-owned television network SABC that her father was teaching the family life lessons from what she termed his "deathbed."
"Tata is still with us, strong, courageous," she said, using the Xhosa word for father. "Even, for a lack of a better word, on his deathbed, he is teaching us lessons; lessons in patience, in love, lessons of tolerance.
"Every moment I get with him, I'm amazed," she added. "There are times where I have to pinch myself that I come from this man who is a fighter, even though you can see he is struggling, but fighting spirit is still there with him."
Many South Africans call Mandela "Tata," a term of respectful endearment that acknowledges his role in South Africa's liberation from apartheid, a system that denied blacks the vote, segregated them into poorly served townships and relegated them to a second-class education.
Last month, Mandela's former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, told a South African newspaper that Mandela's room had to be kept completely sterile so that he would not catch an infection.