Qunu, the home village of former president Nelson Mandela, was eerily quiet on Thursday but residents of the small rural village in the Eastern Cape are eager to get the latest news about the medical condition of their famous neighbour.
"We are worried about him. Our biggest fear is that he may not come back to Qunu for long time given his state of health. He has never gone to Johannesburg for such a long time. It's the first time," said pensioner Thozama Mzamane, as he inspected the entrance to Mandela's house to see who was visiting the elder statesman's house.
A roads construction worker Mzwandile Soci said he hoped the former president would be out of hospital soon to spend his birthday next month in Qunu.
"We believe he will make it and will be discharged from hospital. He might be old but he is a strong person," said Soci.
The news of Mandela's medical condition has been met with grave concern by many residents in Qunu, who often visit him when he is around the village together with his wife Graça Machel.
The decision last night by President Jacob Zuma to cancel his visit to Maputo in Mozambique, where he was due to attend a Southern African Development Community Summit regional infrastructure investment conference, has also raised fears about the exact condition of Mandela, who is still being treated for a recurring lung infection at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria.
"We are hearing different stories but we trust in what the president is doing," said Mzamane on Thursday.
Chiefs on their way to Jo'burg
The chiefs of the Tembu clan flew to Johannesburg on Wednesday to visit Mandela in hospital.
This followed a meeting in Qunu on Tuesday called by the Mandela family to discuss his medical condition and other family-related matters.
On Thursday morning there was less activity around the Mandela home compared to the past two days.
On Wednesday, several blue-collar workers were seen cleaning the burial site inside Mandela's house.
It was not clear whether this was related to the reburial of Mandela's three children who were exhumed and moved to Mvezo by Chief Mandla Mandela without proper consultation.
Bantu Holomisa, the United Democratic Movement leader and a close friend of the Mandela family, told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday morning that the family joined South Africa and the rest of the world in wishing Mandela well.
"The family is coping very well and wish uTata Mandela well. They are strengthened by the support of the public at large. It is gratifying to see them around him because family means a lot to Madiba. He loves to be surrounded by his family," said Holomisa.
Critical in hospital
Mandela was admitted to hospital on June 8 for treatment of a recurring lung infection.
He remains in critical condition, according presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj.
The Salvation Army showed its support for Mandela at the hospital on Thursday morning.
"This is a struggle of an old man who left the a mark for the country; we say to him that God loves him. Lift up your head and look up to God and don't lose hope," said Salvation Army leader William Langa.
He and the Salvation Army choir, sang and prayed outside the hospital for Mandela's recovery.
Well-wishers of different nationalities also arrived at the hospital to place flowers and messages of hope at a "wall of wishes", which was fast running out of space.
"We just want to him to get better," Spaniard Lupita Marcos, now living in South Africa, said with tears in her eyes.
Nine police officers on Thursday manned the entrance of the Pretoria hospital where Mandela is being treated.
The officers were screening all vehicles entering the hospital morning through the Park Street entrance at 6am. Another police contingent was manning the other entrance on Celliers Street.
Despite the biting cold, local and international media started regrouping outside the hospital after 5am.
A dozen candles were placed next to a miniature art gallery established by well-wishers on the security wall of the Mediclinic Heart hospital in Arcadia, east of Pretoria.
Numerous passers-by momentarily stopped on Thursday morning, observing the various gifts brought for Madiba.
Multicoloured balloons, flowers, pictures and paintings of Madiba, hundreds of get-well-soon cards, flags and banners totally eclipsed the Mediclinic signboard at the Celliers Street entrance.
Well-wishers from places such as Cape Town and Mozambique sent cards to the hospital.
"Madiba be well. Long live freedom. Long live Justice. Long live hope. From Shabana Azmi [and] Sandeep Chachna [from] India.
"I will always love you Tata. From Johanisa Ruiters. From Noupoort, Northern Cape."
Before 3am, most journalists had left and only a handful were milling around near the hospital.
Tshwane Metro Police officers were parked near the large fleet of media cars, which occupied all the parking spots near the entrance.
The metro police barricaded Celliers Street, allowing media vehicles and cars of residents of the street.
On Wednesday, President Jacob Zuma left the hospital at 10.15pm in a black BMW. He was escorted by a number of official cars with flashing blue police lights, which waited for him a street away from the hospital's Park Street entrance.
Zuma was followed by Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in a black Lexus. – Additional reporting by Sapa