Nelson Mandela remains in intensive care in a Pretoria hospital as South Africans across the country pray for his recovery. However, there is a growing acceptance that he may not live much longer.
Nelson Mandela spent a fourth day in hospital on Tuesday where he's being treated for a serious lung infection.
The 94 year-old former president was admitted to hospital in Pretoria on Saturday and is said to be in a serious but stable condition. Mandela has a long history of lung problems since being diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988.
His wife Graca Machel has been at his bedside since he was hospitalized.
Former wife Winnie Mandela (to whom he was married for 38 years) and their daughter Zindzi visited the ailing icon on Monday.
Accepting the inevitable
Around the country the realization appears to be setting in that the former South African president, who is almost universally regarded as a hero and synonymous with freedom and democracy in South Africa, could soon be gone.
On the streets of the capital, Johannesburg, people paid tribute to Mandela's place in history as a hero and an icon. For 21 year-old Nomthandazo Ntini, "He's a role model. What we love about him is [his stand for] freedom, not just for black people but for everyone, the peace he gives to all people, the unity and love that he brings."
These sentiments were echoed by another young woman, Lebogang Ngobeni, who, like many other young black South Africans, is hoping and praying that Mandela will recover one more time.
For Sakhile Buthelezi, a young man in his late 20s, there's no doubt that Mandela is "a hero number one and the pillar of this country." Buthelezi believes he'll remain a role model for young South Africans for future generations.
Bongani Mpangose, a student at Wits University told DW correspondent Thuso Khumalo "He's an icon, everyone looks up to him. He's done so many good things." Referring to Mandela's present condition, he added, "I think we should accept it even though we don't want him to leave us."
DW correspondent Subry Govender spoke to both black and white residents of Durban. One elderly white woman expressed her amazement that Mandela has "lasted this long considering his career, and I just hope that he's going to be fit but if he's not going to get fit then he's had a wonderful innings."
Another white resident expressed hope that people would build on Mandela's "amazing legacy."
In April 2013 a frail Mandela, who appeared not be aware of what was going on around him, was photographed with President Jacob Zuma and top ANC party officials. This resulted in criticism that the ANC was exploiting Mandela for its own political ends.
Should Mandela again pull back from the brink, he will be 95 in July. He has not been seen in public since the World Cup final in South Africa in 2010.
South African police on Tuesday tightened security at the Pretoria hospital where Mandela is in intensive care. A statement from presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said "The former president is still in a serious, but stable condition."
Tuesday marked 49 years to the day since Mandela was sentenced to life in prison in 1964 for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government.