South Africa's ailing peace icon Nelson Mandela has been put on a life-support system following deterioration of his health, three weeks after the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader was hospitalised with a recurring lung infection.
"Mandela is on life support in the Pretoria Heart Clinic where he has been fighting a recurrent lung infection since June 8," The Citizen' newspaper reported on Wednesday.
As the country remained on edge, Congress of Traditional Leaders' president Phathekile Holomisa said Mandela's critical condition is cause for great concern.
If it was up to him, he'd ask the Creator to make a quick decision on the international icon's life, state broadcaster SABC quoted Holomisa as saying.
Though there was no official update on the globally revered statesman's medical condition on Wednesday, the SABC report said only Mandela's personal physician V J Ramlakan has been seen entering the premises of the hospital.
No family members or government officials visited Mandela in hospital today, it said.
According to The Citizen' newspaper, five highly-placed sources close to the family, including two who had recently visited Mandela in hospital, said the leader's health has deteriorated to the point where he is breathing with the assistance of a life support ventilator.
The revelation came as a group of elders of the AbaThembu clan, to which Mandela belongs, will assess his condition during a visit to his hospital today to decide on a course of action, according to the daily The Times.
A source told the daily that Mandela is suffering from kidney failure and is undergoing renal dialysis for three hours every second day.
"He is critical, but has an entire team of doctors, from a cardiac specialist, pulmonary specialist, kidney specialist and a main consultant looking after him," the source said, adding the doctors have given the family the option to switch off the life support machines.
A meeting was called on Tuesday by Mandela's eldest daughter Makaziwe at his ancestral home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape province during which it was decided that that the elders and Mandela's confidantes would visit Mandela at the hospital.
However, reports from the Presidency only confirmed that Mandela remains in a critical condition. As South Africans steeled themselves for the worst, the family turned to prayer.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate served as South Africa's first black president from 1994 to 1999 and is widely regarded as the father of the nation for leading the struggle against apartheid and for democracy.