The world pays tribute to Mandela (slideshow)
As South Africans come to terms with the loss of former president Nelson Mandela, the rest of the world bids farewell to Madiba.

Pimples: Saving Madiba's rabbit (video)
Gwede, Mac and Blade try their best to stop the rabbit from whispering in Mandela's ear. But the elusive animal has some tricks up its sleeve.

Zapiro's best Madiba cartoons (slideshow)
From his toughest moments to his most triumphant, Madiba has been an inspiration. Here are some of our favourite Zapiro cartoons about him from 1994 to 2013.

Mandela: SA's greatest son laid to rest (slideshow)
The world watched as Nelson Mandela was finally laid to rest in his hometown of Qunu following a dignified and moving funeral ceremony on Sunday.
The Cabinet splits over the stubborn prisoner Mandela
Three things emerge from the recent flurry of rumours that Nelson Mandela was about to be released from prison.

Three things emerge from the recent flurry of rumours that Nelson Mandela was about to be released from prison.

One is that there are some people in the South African government who believe the ANC leader should be released, and that his stay in hospital after undergoing surgery was extended so they could sound him out on the subject.

Another is that the majority in the Cabinet, including President P W Botha, is opposed to the idea unless Mandela publicly renounces the ANC's commitment to guerrilla struggle or accepts a conditional release, such as agreeing to go into exile.

The third is that Mandela is not going to do either of those things. It follows that Mandela will not be released until the minority group in government can make its views prevail. That is unlikely while Botha remains president, but rumours are widespread in Pretoria that he intends retiring within the next year.

Meanwhile the Mandela issue will return to a back-burner. It has been an open secret for some time that one of those who favours releasing Mandela is the man who is technically his jailer, the Minister of Justice and Prisons, Kobie Coetsee.

The man most strongly opposed is the Minister of Law and Order, Louis le Grange who takes his cue from the Security Police. What appears to have happened is that Coetsee and his allies saw the 67-year-old Mandela's prostate gland operation as presenting an opportunity to release him on compassionate grounds.

They are thought to have raised the issue at a Cabinet meeting, but were again opposed by the voice of the Security apparatus. The upshot seems to have been a decision by the pro-release group to feel Mandela out about the possible mechanics of arranging his release.

The day after the Cabinet meeting, clearly acting on instructions from his Minister, Brigadier Fred Munro, the commanding officer at Pollsmoor Prison, where Mandela is incarcerated, called at the Volkshospitaal in Cape Town and talked for two hours with the ANC leader.

Afterwards Mandela asked his wife, Winnie Mandela, to arrange for his lawyers to visit him for an urgent consultation, saying the prison commander had discussed "certain matters" with him which he could not disclose to her at that stage. It was the arrival of the Johannesburg lawyers in Cape Town, and the unprecedented speed with which they were granted permission to see Mandela, which let the rumours alight.

The unusual silence of the lawyers after their long talk with the prisoner is also a sign that they do not regard his return to prison the next day as meaning the issue is now closed. It suggests a dialogue has begun which they do not want to jeopardise.

Meanwhile the government, taken aback by the intensity of public interest which the rumours aroused, has tried to dismiss the whole affair as a fabrication. In a denial whose extravagant language one newspaper said invited scepticism, Louis Nel, the Deputy Minister of Information, said reports that the government had been putting out feelers about Mandela's release were "nothing else but a continuing campaign of disinformation by propaganda experts behind the iron Curtain."

What seems more likely is that the overstatement reflected an angry reaction by the President to the activities of the pro-release lobby within his own government. Botha has shown anger before at the growing movement within Afrikaner nationalism that favours negotiating with the ANC, as his threats to the Stellenbosch students and Dutch Reformed Church dominees who wanted to travel to Zambia showed.

It is one thing for English businessmen to talk to the ANC; for Afrikaner nationalists to do so is apostasy. The important thing is that a small but influential element within the National Party has come to realise that Mandela represents both white South Africa's problem and its solution.

One opinion poll after another shows him to be the man most black South Africans regard as their leader. To the militant young blacks causing havoc in the townships, his name has acquired a messianic ring.

To release Mandela from prison would be to unleash a surge of black anticipation which the government understandably fears. But he is also the single most important man with whom Pretoria must negotiate; whose assent is necessary if any deal is to be accepted by the bulk of the blacks, including the rampant youth.

The pro-release lobby is stymied for the moment, but its time may not be long distant. Le Grange is in poor health and is expected to retire soon. If President Botha also retires, Coetsee will not be among the candidates to replace him, but as Orange Free State leader of the National Party he will hold the balance of power in choosing a successor. The Mandela issue could then become a bargaining chip.