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Thu Jul 24 21:25:13 SAST 2014

Madiba goes home

LULAMILE FENI | 22 May, 2011 22:540 Comments
A portrait of Nelson Mandela taken in 2007 Picture: BENNY GOOL/NMF

Former President Nelson Mandela yesterday made an unscheduled visit - accompanied by his wife Graca Machel and a medical team - to his home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

Sources close to the 92-year-old struggle icon said he had told his family on Thursday: "I want to go home."

Staff at Mthatha Airport in the Transkei - usually warned days in advance of an impending visit - were only told yesterday morning "to get things ready".

Before his arrival, five aircraft, including a military medical aircraft, were seen at Mthatha Airport just before midday. At 1pm, a white medical military aircraft landed and 30 minutes later Mandela and his wife arrived in a Boeing.

A specially designed wheelchair-lift truck transferred the former president to a nearby military ambulance.

Soon afterwards a convoy of about 12 vehicles, some with tinted windows, drove out of the airport.

At the time, the medical aircraft was hovering above the convoy until Madiba reached his Qunu home.

At home, he was welcomed by grandson Nkosi Mandla Mandela and other family members, including Napilisi Mandela. Madiba's clan nephew, AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo, was among those who visited Mandela.

Noticeable among those welcoming him at the airport was Dr Zola Dabula, head of clinical services in the SANDF and a member of Mandela's medical team, as well as Dr Mbuyiselo Madiba, the clinical services head at the Mthatha Hospital Complex.

Some of those who managed to get close said Mandela appeared to be in good spirits to be back home. They said he chatted and asked some youngsters about their progress at school.

His grandson, Mandla, could not be reached for comment. However, he said "the old man is very old" when asked whether during his week-long stay Mandela would pay his respects to the late AbaThembu Queen Nolwazi, who was buried on Saturday.

Mandela had a health scare on January 27 when he was unexpectedly admitted to Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital. The Nelson Mandela Foundation initially said he had been admitted for routine tests, but it was later disclosed that he had been treated for acute respiratory infection.

Last Monday, he cast a special vote in the local government elections - his first public appearance since being hospitalised four months ago.

The foundation last night referred questions about Mandela's trip to the Presidency which, in turn, referred questions to the Mandela family. - Additional reporting by Retha Grobbelaar and Chandré Prince

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