JOHANNESBURG — Inside a Catholic church that once served as a major rallying point for anti-apartheid activists, the image of a gray-suited Nelson Mandela appears in stained-glass window that also features angels and the cross.
Worshippers here prayed Sunday for the hospitalized 94-year-old former president, who remains almost a secular saint and a father figure to many in South Africa, a nation of 50 million people that has Africa’s top economy.
Mandela’s admission to the hospital this weekend for unspecified medical tests sparked screaming newspaper headlines and ripples of fear in the public that the frail leader is fading further away.
And as his African National Congress political party stands ready to pick its leader who likely will be the nation’s next president, some believe governing party politicians have abandoned Mandela’s integrity and magnanimity in a seemingly unending string of corruption scandals. That leaves many wondering who can lead the country the way the ailing Mandela once did.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term.