* President Zuma pulls out of summit in Mozambique
* Mandela's condition has "gone down", spokesman says
* Obama due to visit, no word on schedule change
JOHANNESBURG, June 27 South Africans prepared on
Thursday to say farewell to ailing anti-apartheid leader Nelson
Mandela after his condition deteriorated further in hospital,
forcing President Jacob Zuma to cancel a trip to neighbouring
Zuma was due to attend a summit in Maputo of the Southern
African Development Community (SADC) to discuss regional
infrastructure, but pulled out after visiting the 94-year-old
former president in hospital late on Wednesday.
"Over the past 48 hours, the condition of former president
Madiba has gone down," presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told
state broadcaster SABC, using the clan name by which Mandela is
Maharaj said Mandela's condition remained critical. He
declined to comment on media reports that he was on life support
in the Pretoria hospital where he is being treated for a lung
infection, saying his privacy should be respected.
Mandela has already spent 20 days in the hospital, his
fourth hospitalization in six months.
This has forced a growing realisation among South Africans
that the man regarded as the father of their post-apartheid
"Rainbow Nation" will not be among them for ever.
"Mandela is very old and at that age, life is not good. I
just pray that God takes him this time. He must go. He must
rest," said Ida Mashego, a 60-year-old office cleaner in
Johannesburg's Sandton financial district.
Mandela, South Africa's first black president, is admired
around the world as a symbol of resistance to injustice for the
way he opposed his country's apartheid system, spending 27 years
in jail, more than half of them on notorious Robben Island.
He is also respected for the way he preached reconciliation
after the 1994 transition to multi-racial democracy following
three centuries of white domination.
"CELEBRATING HIS LIFE"
U.S. President Barack Obama is due to visit South Africa at
the weekend as part of a three-nation Africa tour he has already
started in Senegal. Maharaj said it was too early to say whether
Obama's schedule in Johannesburg and Cape Town on Saturday and
Sunday might be affected by Mandela's worsening condition.
Well-wishers' messages, bouquets and stuffed animals have
piled up outside Mandela's Johannesburg home and the wall of the
hospital compound where he is being treated in the capital.
As they headed to work on Thursday, South Africans seemed
resigned to the prospect of losing their hero.
"We are all going to feel bad when he passes, but at the
same time we will be celebrating his life. He has done so many
great things for this country," said John Ndlovu, a 25-year-old
Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one five-year term in
Since then he has played little role in public life, dividing
his time in retirement between his home in the wealthy
Johannesburg suburb of Houghton and Qunu, the village in the
impoverished Eastern Cape province where he was born.
The public's last glimpse of him was a brief clip aired by
state television in April during a visit to his home by Zuma and
other senior officials from the ruling African National
At the time, the 101-year-old liberation movement assured the
public Mandela was "in good shape", although the footage showed
a thin and frail old man sitting expressionless in an armchair.