Johannesburg - University of the Free State Vice-Chancellor Professor Jonathan Jansen said at the weekend that he wishes former president Nelson Mandela would die, according to a report on Monday.

“Don't you also wish he would die?” Jansen asked a group of about 250 students gathered on the campus for a leadership summit on Sunday.

Update: Professor Jansen responds and says his comment was taken out of context

Beeld newspaper reported that the students were noticeably shocked when they heard the question.

“Every time we hear he's in hospital, everyone thinks ‘this is it, he's going to die this time’. Big Mac (Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj) is lying when he says Madiba is in for check-ups. When you are 94, you go to hospital to die, not for routine tests,” Jansen said.

Approached for comment on Sunday evening, Jansen’s spokesperson Lacea Loader said he meant to say that Mandela should be left to die in peace.

Mandela was discharged on Saturday after being admitted to a Pretoria hospital on Tuesday to receive treatment for a lung condition.

Beeld reported that Maharaj was angry when asked for comment.

“I'll think about it carefully. I need to give the matter careful consideration before I comment,” said Maharaj. - Sapa