Mandela's former bodyguard: "Set him free"

(CBS News) PRETORIA - Nelson Mandela spent his eighth day in the hospital Saturday. Public comments by family members and government officials indicate his condition is serious but improving, though details are elusive.

Now a former bodyguard who has been Mandela's constant companion for the last 12 years is speaking out to CBS News correspondent Debora Patta about the man for whom he would lay down his life, saying his wishes are not being respected.

Shaun van Heerden has been placed on special leave by the South African police over accusations that he leaked details of where Mandela is being treated, though he denies the charge.

Van Heerden said that over the past few months, as Mandela's health has deteriorated, access to him by visitors has been restricted by his medical team.

As Nelson Mandela nears end of his long walk home, is South Africa ready to let him go?

"It got to the point where the medical staff was like they own Nelson Mandela. They call the shots when it comes to who sees him, who visits him."

He said the anti-aparthied campaigner, once jailed for 27 years, is very lonely.

"It's actually sad because it felt for me ... that they have put him right back into prison again at this old age."

Watch an Web extra interview with Shaun van Heerden below:

When asked is he thinks Mandela will survive his latest medical problems, van Heerden said "I hope so, but I don't think so."

He believes Mandela would not want to spend his last days in a hospital.

"Take him home and if he has to close his eyes, so be it," he said. "Set him free. As tough as it is, let us set him free."

CBS News attempted to reach Mandela's medical team for comment, but those attempts have gone unanswered.

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