Nelson Mandela's tribal leaders have been told to prepare for the death of the former president, who remains in hospital unable to breathe without support. The advice comes after meetings with the family over the past two days.

Senior tribal leaders – including Mr Mandela's tribal heir, grandson Mandla Mandela – are expected to visit the hospital for further talks with family members.

Nelson Mandela remains in critical condition, according to the South African government, and multiple sources have confirmed to Sky News that he is no longer able to breathe unassisted.

In the Eastern Cape, where Mr Mandela will be buried, a member of the tribal authority confirmed that the clan had been told that he is extremely ill and although it is against Xhosa tradition to even discuss the death of a living person, they should prepare for the worst.

There are a series of tribal rituals that will be observed by the family and the nation throughout this period and during the funeral, although Mr Mandela, a Methodist, will be given a Christian burial.

Outside the Pretoria hospital where Mr Mandela has been treated for the past 19 days, well-wishers continue to lay flowers and cards supporting this national and world icon. Police have increased security and blocked the road to traffic outside the rear entrance to the hospital.

An officer said this was to allow the free passage of family and VIPs who have been visiting the hospital throughout Mr Mandela's stay. For the first time the South African people appear to be accepting that the end of this remarkable life is approaching.

"He has done so much for this country, it is terribly sad but we have to accept it however hard it may seem," said a lady reading messages pinned to the hospital wall.

The office of President Jacob Zuma says that Mr Mandela remains critical but the President, asking the nation to pray, added that South Africa had to accept that "Madiba is old".



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