Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has been kept on a life-support system following deterioration of his health condition at a South African hospital where the 94-year-old leader was admitted three weeks ago with a recurring lung infection.
"Ailing former President Nelson Mandela is on life support in the Pretoria Heart Clinic where he has been fighting a recurrent lung infection since June 8," The Citizen' newspaper reported.
According to the paper, five highly-placed sources close to the family, including two who had recently visited him in hospital, said that the iconic leader's health has deteriorated to the point where he is breathing with the assistance of a life support ventilator.
The revelation came as a group of elders of the AbaThembu clan, to which critically ill Mandela belongs, will assess his condition during a visit to his hospital today to decide on a course of action, according to the daily The Times.
Another source told the daily that Mandela is suffering from kidney failure and is undergoing renal dialysis for three hours every second day.
"He is critical, but has an entire team of doctors, from a cardiac specialist, pulmonary specialist, kidney specialist and a main consultant looking after him," the source said, adding that the doctors have given the family the option to switch off the life support machines.
A meeting was called Tuesday by Mandela's eldest daughter Makaziwe at his ancestral home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape province during which it was decided that that the elders and Mandela's confidantes would visit Mandela at the hospital.
The Afrikaans daily Beeld reported that two hours after the Mandela family meeting, a grave-digging machine was parked near the proposed graveyard where Mandela is likely to be buried.
However, reports from the Presidency only confirmed that Mandela remains in a critical condition. As South Africans steeled themselves for the worst, the family turned to prayer.
Relatives met in his home of Qunu while an archbishop led his family in prayer, calling for "a quiet night and a peaceful, perfect, end" for the former president.
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba joined the family at the hospital.
In Pretoria, as huge crowds began gathering to pray and show support for Madiba, as he is affectionately known by millions, police reinforcements had to be called in to block off areas around the hospital for safety reasons.
At Mandela's original home in Vilakazi Street in Soweto, barricades had to be put up to control the influx of visitors.
Considered the founding father of South Africa's democracy, Mandela became an international figure while enduring 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid.
He was elected the nation's first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed from prison.
Image: Locals stroll past a mural outside the house of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg
Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters