Prayers for Mandela after icon in hospital for 2nd night
South Africa waited Sunday for news of Nelson Mandela after the ailing 94-year-old icon spent a second night in hospital in a serious but stable condition, sparking worldwide concern.
Mandela's latest bout of illness was splashed across Sunday's press but officials have released no updates since announcing he was hospitalised early Saturday and in a "serious but stable" condition.
"It's time to let him go," was the front-page headline in the Sunday Times with a picture of the former statesman smiling and waving.
"We wish Madiba a speedy recovery, but I think what is important is that his family must release him," long-time friend Andrew Mlangeni, 87, told the newspaper, using Mandela's clan name.
It is the fourth hospital stay since December for Mandela, who turns 95 next month, and comes just weeks after he was discharged for the same lung infection.
"Quite clearly you are not well and there is a possibility you might not be well again," said Mlangeni, saying Mandela had been hospitalised "too many times".
"Once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow. We will say thank you, God, you have given us this man, and we will release him too," said Mlangeni, who served time alongside Mandela in apartheid prison.
The congregation at the Regina Mundi church in Soweto, a haven during the liberation struggle, was urged to remember Mandela in their prayers.
"I am coming to church today with Madiba in my thoughts. I want him to get well," churchgoer Nokuthula Tshibasa, 38, told AFP.
Mandela's wife Graca Machel has been at his bedside in hospital after calling off a trip to London.
Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj told AFP on Saturday that Mandela was breathing on his own, which was "a positive side".
"The truth of the matter is a simple one. Madiba is a fighter and at his age as long as he is fighting, he'll be fine," he said.
His hospitalisation continued to trigger a buzz on Twitter on Sunday.
"No one lasts forever. But I really wish there was an exception for #Mandela," tweeted one user.
But there have also been growing calls for acceptance of the mortality of the man known as "tata" (father) of the nation.
"Can we all just give this Great Man the dignity 2 die in peace if its his time. Has he not given us all enough #ThankU Tata #Mandela," said one tweet.
The ruling ANC has called for people at home and abroad to pray for Mandela.
-- 'It's time to let him go' --
The Nobel peace laureate is revered as a symbol of forgiveness after embracing his former jailers following decades of apartheid rule.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said Mandela is in his thoughts, while the White House has also sent good wishes.
Mandela was receiving care at his Johannesburg home when his lung problems returned. He was admitted to an undisclosed hospital after his condition worsened at 01:30 am Saturday (2330 GMT Friday).
He was diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988 and also has had treatment for prostate cancer and suffered stomach ailments.
In December, Mandela spent 18 days in hospital, his longest stint since walking free from 27 years in jail in 1990.
In March he was admitted for an overnight scheduled check-up before returning that month for 10 days.
Still a powerful symbol of peace and unity, Mandela has not been seen in public since the World Cup final in July 2010.
After serving just one term he turned his energy to AIDS and conflict resolution, before announcing in 2004 at age 85 that he was stepping out of the public eye.
In March, Zuma appeared to prepare the nation for the passing of the father of the "Rainbow Nation".
"In Zulu, when someone passes away who is very old, people say he or she has gone home. I think those are some of the things we should be thinking about," Zuma told the BBC.
Maharaj, who served time with Mandela on apartheid's Robben Island jail, on Saturday said it was good to worry about Mandela but there was no need "to get overworked".
"Whereas in the beginning we would get extremely anxious, this time our anxiety is tempered with a certain understanding of his age and his frailty. It's a good healthy balance," he said.
Television footage in April showed a frail, distant and unsmiling Mandela being visited at home by ANC leaders, sparking accusations that his party was exploiting him.
The African National Congress -- facing elections next year -- has lost much of its Mandela shine, amid widespread corruption, poverty and poor public services.
His own family has also been locked in a feud over control of various companies.
© 2013 AFP