Graca Machel makes rare public statement to say flood of supportive messages has 'lightened the burden of anxiety' as 94-year-old former president spends 10th day in hospital
Nelson Mandela's wife has thanked South Africans and people around the world for sending thousands of messages "to lighten the burden of anxiety" about his health.
The 94-year-old former president is spending a 10th day in hospital on Monday after suffering a recurring lung infection but his condition is said to be improving.
Graca Machel, who married Mandela in 1998 and has been at his bedside throughout, issued a rare public statement acknowledging well wishes that have come via Facebook, Twitter and other media.
She began by quoting a remark from her husband: "What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made in the lives of others."
Machel, 67, continued: "I have thought of his words on each occasion the world stood with him, making a difference to him, in his healing.
"So much love and generosity from South Africans, Africans across the continent, and thousands more from across the world, have come our way to lighten the burden of anxiety; bringing us love, comfort and hope."
She added: "The messages have come by letter, by SMS, by phone, by twitter, by Facebook, by email, cards, flowers and the human voice, in particular the voices of children in schools or singing outside our home. We have felt the closeness of the world and the deepest meaning of strength and peace.
"Our gratitude is difficult to express. But the love and peace we feel give yet more life to the simple 'thank you'."
Machel, widow of Mozambican president Samora Machel, is Mandela's third wife. His second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, has also visited the Mediclinic heart hospital in Pretoria daily, along with other family members.
President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday that Mandela remains in serious condition but his doctors are seeing sustained improvements. Zuma said Mandela is engaging with family during visits.
South African media reported that an investigation has been opened after two church groups were turned away and some members temporarily arrested at Mandela's home in Qunu in Eastern Cape province.
The missionaries from the Reformed Church of Christ and the Apostolic Faith Mission had apparently come to offer prayers and support on Sunday.
Two members attempted to take pictures of themselves outside the house and were briefly arrested and held inside a security room at the gate, reports said. This resulted in a heated exchange between the group and the police. One police officer accused them of betraying the freedom that Mandela fought for.