Daughter: Mandela 'still there,' raps media 'vultures'

As well-wishers gather around Nelson Mandela's hospital, his eldest daughter slammed media "vultures" for invading his privacy.

JOHANNESBURG — Former South African President Nelson Mandela is responding to touch and is "still there," his eldest daughter, Makaziwe, said Thursday after visiting her critically ill father in the hospital.

"I won't lie, it doesn't look good. But as I say, if we speak to him, he responds and tries to open his eyes. He's still there. He might be waning off, but he's still there," she told SABC radio.

As anxiety increases over the faltering health of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero, Makaziwe criticized foreign media "vultures" for violating her father's privacy.

Outside the hospital, where Mandela is likely on life support, members of a South African choir prayed and sang for the country's first black president, who rose to power after 27 years as a political prisoner.

In addition to the choir from the Salvation Army, other people arrived Thursday to deliver flowers and messages of support for Mandela at the Medic-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, the South African capital.

Related: Tribal chief hints that Mandela is on life support

Members of the youth league of the country's ruling party, the African National Congress, were planning prayer meetings Thursday to honor the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Earlier in the day, President Jacob Zuma canceled a trip to Mozambique in an indication of heightened concern about Mandela, whose health deteriorated last weekend, and paid a visit to him Thursday, the second in 24 hours.

Well-wishers stand outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa.AP Photo: Themba Hadebe

"There's sort of a racist element with many of the foreign media, where they just cross boundaries," Makaziwe Mandela said after running a gauntlet of camera crews and reporters gathered outside the hospital.

Gallery: Nation waits for news on Mandela

"It's truly like vultures waiting when the lion has devoured the buffalo, waiting there for the last of the carcass. That's the image we have as a family," Makaziwe added.

She compared the massive media attention on Mandela, who has been in and out of hospital in the past few months with a recurring lung infection, to the coverage of the death in April of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

"We don't mind the interest, but I just feel it has gone overboard. When Margaret Thatcher was sick in hospital, I didn't see this kind of media frenzy around Margaret Thatcher," she said. "It is only God who knows when the time to go is."

President Barack Obama, who is due to visit South Africa this weekend, said his thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family and South Africans.

Speaking in Senegal, his first stop on a three-nation African tour, Obama said Mandela was a "personal hero" of his.

"Even if he passes on, his legacy will linger on," Obama said. He confirmed he still plans to travel to South Africa in the coming days, in response to speculation he might reschedule his trip because of Mandela's deteriorating health.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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