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Nelson Mandela Is In Critical But Stable Condition, In Latest Update

The condition of former South African leader Nelson Mandela is "still critical but stable," according to the office of President Jacob Zuma. Mandela, 94, has been in a Pretoria hospital since June 8 with a lung infection.

In the first official update on Mandela's health since Thursday, the presidency also urged people to prepare for the beloved rights activist's birthday later this month.

"We remind all South Africans to begin planning for Madiba's birthday on the 18th of July. We must all be able to do something good for humanity on this day, in tribute to our former president," President Zuma said.

Because of health concerns, Mandela, who is also known by the traditional tribal name of Madiba, did not meet with President Obama during his visit to South Africa this past weekend.

From Johannesburg, NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports that it's the fourth hospital stay for Mandela since Christmas. And as his extended family copes with the illness of its patriarch, arguments have also broken out.

Ofeibea reports:

"The battle brewing between members of the Mandela family is over the reburial of three of Nelson Mandela's children. The Royal House of his AbaThembu clan is said to be deeply concerned that the courts have ruled on the matter.

"More than a dozen Mandela family members are legally challenging his grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela. The latter reportedly had the remains of Mandela's children exhumed and taken to Mvezo, the village where Nelson Mandela was born.

"They had been buried in Qunu, where Nelson Mandela spent much of his childhood, built his retirement home, and where he is believed to want to be laid to rest."

As the BBC reports, "The remains are of Makgatho Mandela, Mandla's father who died from AIDS-related diseases in 2005 and his siblings, Thembekile, who was killed in a car accident in 1969, and Makaziwe, his first daughter who died when she was nine months old."

Mandla, who is a member of Parliament, had their remains moved two years ago without consulting other family members, reports South Africa's News 24. He is reportedly planning to build a hotel, soccer stadium, and heritage center in Mvezo.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.