From Nadia Bilchik, CNN
(CNN) — Former South African President Nelson Mandela, at home after a long hospital stay, is alert and playing with his grandchildren, his granddaughter Zaziwe Manaway told CNN exclusively Friday.
Mandela, who was born in 1918, is aware of social media rumors that he’s close to death, Manaway said.
“That is absolutely not true. My grandfather is well,” she said. “It can be very, very hurtful for us to hear these messages out there in the social media that our grandfather is going to go home to die. It is insensitive.”
She said she wants to appeal to people spreading those rumors to stop, and to be more sensitive to the family and to Mandela, a global icon of peace and South Africa’s defeat of apartheid.
“My grandfather still wakes up in the morning (and) reads the newspaper,” Manaway said. “So is also aware of what is being said around him.”
Mandela was treated for an acute respiratory infection in 2011. He was hospitalized for a lung infection on December 8, and on December 15, he underwent surgery for removal of gallstones.
Because Mandela is in his 90s, it’s understandable that “once in a while, he needs medical care and medical attention,” Manaway said. “And we’re very grateful he’s surrounded by the best medical team. He’s very well taken care of, and he’s very comfortable, and he’s very happy.”
On Wednesday, a spokesman for South African President Jacob Zuma told media that Mandela had been discharged from the hospital and would continue receiving treatment at his home in Houghton.
Mandela has not appeared in public since the 2010 World Cup hosted in his country.
– CNN’s Kim Norgaard contributed to this report.