Nelson Mandela was put on life support Wednesday, with tribal leaders in South Africa reportedly being told to prepare for the death of the former president.
Leaders from Mandela’s tribe, including his tribal heir and grandson Mandla Mandela, had been meeting with the family over the last two days and are reportedly planning more meetings. But while the family has remained tight-lipped over Mandela’s status, word has emerged that they and the tribal leaders are preparing for his death.
The reports are difficult to corroborate. Sources in South Africa say it is against Xhosa tradition to discuss the death of a person who is still living, but the tribal leaders and family are reportedly preparing themselves for the death and for the rituals that will come afterward.
Nelson Mandela is a Methodist and will be given a Christian burial, but will also receive tribal death and burial rituals.
Reports that Mandela was put on life support caused tension in his home country, with thousands of supporters waiting anxiously to hear updates on his health. Many of them left flowers and gifts.
Family members thanked the South Africans for the show of support.
“He’s going to feel a lot better when he sees these signs,” said Mandela’s grandson-in-law.
Though Mandela was initially listed in serious but stable condition, his condition worsened over the weekend and has been listed in critical condition since then.
Mandela has been hospitalized since June 8 with a stubborn lung infection stemming from the tuberculosis Mandela contracted while serving in a prison labor came. Mandela served in prison for 27 years before being released in 1990.
Sources close to the family said Nelson Mandela wants to be buried on a hillside overlooking the home he built after being released from prison, alongside three of his six children who already died.