JOHANNESBURG — Former South African President Nelson Mandela was whisked home Friday from a hospital where the 92-year-old had been treated for a respiratory infection, with only a glimpse of his head covered by a surgical cap visible as he was wheeled into an ambulance.
That brief view could symbolize Mandela's increasing disengagement from public life. South Africans expressed joy Friday that he is recovering but there was also wistful realization that an icon is fading. Officials said Mandela now would be cared for in hospital-like conditions at home.
"Everyone was holding their hearts and saying not now," said Patricia Ramaila, who has lived across the street from Mandela for four years. "A person like Mr. Mandela — we still need him."