JOHANNESBURG -- Nelson Mandela is being kept alive by a breathing machine and faces "impending death," court documents show, as his family grave site was restored Thursday.
Mandela's health is "perilous" and he is being kept alive by life support, according to documents filed in the court case that resulted in the remains of the former president's three deceased children being reburied Thursday in their original graves.
"The anticipation of his impending death is based on real and substantial grounds," the court filing said.
"He's basically gone," said Charlene Smith, an authorized biographer of the former anti-apartheid leader. "He's not there. He's not there."
A younger person put on mechanical ventilation (life support) can be weaned off the machine and recover, but that 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 Mandela's care.
In Mandela's hometown, Qunu, the bodies of three of his children were returned to their original resting site following the court order.
Family members and community elders attended a ceremony on the Mandela property that included the singing of hymns. The reburial took place in Qunu, where Mandela grew up and where the former president has said he wants to be buried. Earlier, forensic tests had confirmed the remains were those of Mandela's children.
Grandson Mandla Mandela moved the bodies to his village of Mvezo, Nelson Mandela's birthplace, in 2011. The two towns are about 15 miles apart. Fifteen Mandela family members pursued court action last week to force the grandson to move the bodies back to their original burial site.
Mandla Mandela, the oldest male Mandela heir and a tribal chief, told a news conference Thursday that "my grandfather like myself would be highly disappointed in what is unraveling."
Mandela remains in critical but stable condition, according to a statement by President Jacob Zuma's office. Zuma visited Mandela on Thursday, the statement said.