Nelson Mandela “drew his last breath and just rested”, his ex-wife Winnie said Thursday in her first public comments on his death.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said she rushed to the former South African president’s bedside for his final moments, in an interview with Britain’s ITV television.
She said: “I went close to him and I noticed he was breathing really slowly. I was holding him trying to feel his temperature and he felt cold. Then he drew his last breath and just rested… He was gone.”
Mandela’s second wife said doctors had assured the family that the anti-apartheid icon was not in pain in his final days.
She said the sacrifices of their relationship were worth it for the liberation of South Africa and she would go through the same again “100 times more”.
Madikizela-Mandela said she was now the senior head of the family but had no plans to inherit his political position.
“I consider myself very blessed to have been there when he drew his last breath,” she said.
“I had been there sitting next to him for over three and a half hours and all that time he was going. Then I realised that God was very kind to us. He had given us such a long time for us to say goodbye.
“I knew we had reached the end. You get this numb feeling. You don’t react to that. I can’t describe that kind of sorrow.
“Even though he was 95 and had done so much, there was so much that was still not done. I felt in his case he had completed his journey.”
She said South Africa could cope without him because the country was “not short of leadership at all” in the ruling African National Congress.