A wellwisher arrives with flowers for former South African President Nelson Mandela near to the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where Mandela is being treated in Pretoria. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Johannesburg - Prayer meetings were held throughout the country on Sunday for ailing former president Nelson Mandela, who is critically ill in a Pretoria hospital.

His grandson Mandla Mandela attended a prayer meeting at the Qunu community centre, near the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's home in the village.

About 50 people from Qunu and Mvezo, where Mandla Mandela is chief, sang and prayed for Mandela.

Mandela was admitted to the Medi-Clinic heart Hospital, in Pretoria, on June 8 with a recurring lung infection.

Hundreds of people, including the African National Congress and opposition parties in KwaZulu-Natal held a prayer meeting for Mandela at the Durban City Hall on Sunday. They sang gospel and ANC songs.

The prayer meeting was attended by ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala and deputy chairman Willies Mchunu, National Freedom Party general secretary Nhlanhla Khubisa, Democratic Alliance provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu and Minority Front leader Shameem Rajbansi.

Khubisa asked God to give Mandela's family strength and fortitude.

Sizwe Mchunu said: “Today our prayer is that Mandela recovers, but we also pray that when he recovers, we'll continue to live up to the principles and standards he advocated.”

Rajbansi said Mandela had been the golden thread which held the nation together.

Church groups and choirs were among the visitors who streamed to the hospital in Pretoria on Sunday to lay tributes and pray for Mandela.

Outside, a choir from the New Apostolic Church was joined in song by The Salvation Army.

A group of Umkhonto we Sizwe military veterans, dressed in military uniform, took a framed photograph of Mandela in uniform to the hospital.

Singing and chanting, they marched from its entrance in Park Street to the entrance in Celliers street.

The SABC reported on Sunday that hundreds of ANC members had gathered in Limpopo for a “Mandela march” and a prayer session.

At the United Democratic Movement's Eastern Cape congress on Sunday, its leader Bantu Holomisa asked members to pray that Mandela made a speedy recovery.

“This has been a difficult week for South Africa, as millions of people around the world have been praying for our struggle icon, Tata Madiba to get well,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery.

The UDM's national chairman Zolisa Lavisa was asked to say a prayer for Mandela and the congress was asked to sing his favourite hymn.

Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille launched a Nelson Mandela Legacy Exhibition in the city on Sunday.

“Madiba has been on all of our minds over the past three weeks..., but as we have known for many years, Tata Madiba is a man of strength and resilience,” she said in a speech prepared for delivery.

“Whatever happens, he is in our thoughts and he has our love and gratitude.”

The launch was attended by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Njongonkulu Ndungane.

The exhibition consists of photographs of Mandela over the years.

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza and his provincial government also joined the rest of the country in praying for Mandela.

“On behalf of the provincial government, we extend our prayers to his family,” Mabuza said in a statement.

“We believe that his families know very well that people of Mpumalanga love the former president.

“We are with them in our prayers during this difficult time in their life,” he said. - Sapa