South African leader opens Nelson Mandela Center | Africa | DW | 18.11.2013
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South African leader opens Nelson Mandela Center

South African President Jacob Zuma has opened the Nelson Mandela Center of Memory and a permanent exhibition on the life of South Africa's anti-apartheid hero and first black president.

The center contains archive material on Mandela's life from childhood until the present. There are also photos and other artifacts that Mandela cherishes, as well as other memorabilia.

Visitors to the center will be able to see letters he wrote to his family and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) leaders while he was in prison, as well as pictures and documentaries made about him.

Accolades and trophies won by Mandela during his 67 years of fighting for human rights and dignity are also part of the exhibition.

South African President Jacob Zuma said the center which is situated in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, not far away from Mandela’s home, will no doubt attract a lot of visitors.

Nelson Mandela and a ANC official leave the court in 1958 Photo:Jürgen Schadeberg

The center showcases pictures of Mandela during his struggle against apartheid

"Housed at this center are some of the most important heritage resources that chronicle the life and times of the founder father of our democratic nation and our icon Tata Nelson Mandela. They are our nation’s treasures and they indeed need to be preserved," Zuma said.

Sello Hatang, Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Mandela Center of Memory said the center was an interactive archive and a venue for dialogue.

“One of the things that he (Mandela) asked us to do was not to turn it into mausoleum. We are hoping that it will be a place that is lively and where people have a conversation and be able to access the legacy, as it were," he said.

Nelson Mandela's grandson, Mandla Mandela, hailed the launch saying the world would have full access and be able to learn more about Mandela's legacy.

“The most important thing for us as a family is to see that my grandfather's legacy and his works are preserved for the public to be able to engage with the material that is housed in the archives,” said Mandla Mandela.

Mandela's health remains critical

In its first update on his health since September, the South African government said Nelson Mandela remained in a "stable but critical" condition, but "continues to respond to treatment"

According to a statement issued after President Jacob Zuma visited the anti-apartheid icon at his home on Monday, "the health of the former President remains much the same."

The government has refused to give details about his condition, citing the need for privacy, but said "he continues to recover".

The now famous wall at the hospital in Pretoria carrying 'get well messages' for Mandela Photo: Subry Govender,

The famous wall at the hospital in Pretoria where Mandela once received treatment carrying 'get well messages'

Debora Patta, an investigative television producer and anchor told DW, the flow of information from the government has never been good. "The reflex from the South African government has been always to conceal even when there's nothing to conceal," she said.

However, she added that the reason there had been little update on Mandela's health, was that his condition has not changed since he was discharged from hospital on September 1 to receive intensive care at home, after nearly three months in hospital for a lung infection.

“Essentially there is nothing to say, his home has been turned into an intensive care unit, doctors are working round the clock,” said Patta,” the former president is really receiving top medical care, but he has not spoken for a very long time.”

Family comments on Mandela's health

Mandela's oldest grandson, Mandla Mandela, who visited the former statesman on Sunday, said he found him in a "good state".

"He is still progressing steadily but very much under a critical condition," Mandla Mandela told reporters.

Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla Mandela

Nelson Mandela's grandson Mandla is optimistic that the new center will nurture his grandfather's legacy

Mandela's former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, told a local newspaper that he remains "quite ill" and was unable to speak because of tubes being used to clear his lungs of liquid. He was using facial expressions to communicate, Madikizela-Mandela added.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner is under the care of 22 doctors. While his pneumonia has cleared, his lungs remain sensitive, she said, adding that it was "difficult for him".

"He remains very sensitive to any germs, so he has to be kept literally sterile. The bedroom there is like an ICU (intensive care unit) ward," she told the Sunday Times."He remains quite ill, but thank God the doctors were able to pull him through from that (last) infection."

His lung problems date back to his time in jail when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Mandela, who spent 27 years in apartheid jails before becoming South Africa's first black leader, has faced several health scares.

His most recent 86-day hospital stay was his longest since he walked free from prison in 1990.

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