Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel

A file photo shows Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel in Toronto in 2001 during a ceremony to name a school after him. (Frank Gunn / Associated Press / November 17, 2001)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- As Nelson Mandela neared death last week, doctors told his wife, Graca Machel, that this time he couldn’t be saved, South African media reported Sunday.

His wife Graca Machel told members of the Mandela family that he was sinking fast. President Jacob Zuma was told Tuesday that Mandela’s death was imminent, City Press newspaper reported.

Family members and close friends were ushered into his room in groups of two or three and emerged sobbing.

According to the City Press report, Mandela died after contracting a new bout of serious pneumonia, when fluid rapidly accumulated in his lungs, which had been damaged by recurrent infections. As his blood pressure sank dangerously low, it became difficult to siphon off the fluid.

At the end, Nelson Mandela was breathing without life support. His last breath “was his own” according to the Sunday Times newspaper. Other reports said he remained on breathing support, and was receiving dialysis. The family had reported that he was unable to speak because of tubes inserted in his throat in June.

Mandela was admitted to the hospital in June and remained critically ill until his death Thursday night. He was sent home in September, where his bedroom was set up to provide 24-hour intensive care.

But blocked tubes and infections continued to plague him, reported City Press. The report said he had to have several surgical interventions in recent months and by the end, he had developed a resistance to antibiotics.

His wife Graca Machel, a constant presence during his illness, was with him when he died, along with his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, his daughter Makaziwe and his grandson Mandla Mandela, who was selected by Nelson Mandela to be chief of the clan.

Mandela’s illness saw a bitter power struggle erupt between Makaziwe and Mandla. A family spokesman Saturday said the family would uphold and be guided by Mandela’s values.

When Mandela died, two of his daughters, Zenani and Zindzi, were in London for the premier of "Long Walk To Freedom," a film based on his autobiography. Before learning of his death, Zindzi told reporters in London that her father was "fine."

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