Nelson Mandela is being kept alive by a breathing machine and faces "impending death", South African court documents have shown.
The former president's health is "perilous", according to documents filed in the court case that resulted in the remains of his three dead children being reburied on Thursday in their original graves. "The anticipation of his impending death is based on real and substantial grounds," said the court document.
Mr Mandela, 94, who was taken to hospital on June 8, remains in a critical but stable condition, according to the office of President Jacob Zuma, who visited the anti-apartheid leader. The president's office also said doctors denied reports that Mr Mandela was in a "vegetative state".
A younger person put on mechanical ventilation - life support - can be weaned off the machine and recover, but that it can be difficult or impossible for an older person. The longer a person is on ventilation the less the chance of recovery, said the chief executive of the Faculty of Consulting Physicians of South Africa.
"It indicates a very poor prognosis for recovery because it means that he's either too weak or too sick to breathe on his own," said Dr Adri Kok, who has no connection to Mr Mandela's care.
"Usually if a person does need that, any person, not keeping in mind his age at all, for any person it would be indicative of a grave illness." "When they say 'perilous' I think that would be a fair description," she added.
Meanwhile, a tribal king in South Africa has removed a grandson of Nelson Mandela from his post of traditional authority while the former president is in hospital in a critical condition.
King Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo of the Thembu tribe said Mandla Mandela was being expelled "from all rank of duties" over a family feud, which erupted after it was revealed that the grandson had moved the bodies of three of Nelson Mandela's children to his village of Mvezo in South Africa's Eastern Cape province in 2011.
The bodies were recently returned to their original burial site in Mandela's hometown, Qunu, after Mandela family members went to court to force Mandla Mandela to relinquish control of the remains.
King Dalindyebo said Mandla Mandela, a chief in the Mvezo area, would not be allowed any involvement in tribal affairs until he apologises. "He has not only angered us, he has also angered his own family," the king said. "So as long as the family does not need him in their premises, we don't need him in the Madiba clan at all."