JOHANNESBURG  -Emotional crowds gathered outside the hospital where Nelson Mandela lay in critical condition Wednesday, as relatives and clan elders made preparations for the revered former South African leader’s final journey.

Singing supporters amassed outside the Pretoria hospital where the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero was fighting for his life.

A candlelight vigil was held late Tuesday and a prayer read out by a South African archbishop to wish the anti-apartheid icon a “peaceful, perfect, end”.

“We have been so united — blacks and whites together. That’s the thought of Mandela in us,” said Lerato Boulares, 35, who was singing hymns at the entrance of the Mediclinic Heart Hospital.

Proteas, the national flower of South Africa, and red and yellow roses lined the bottom of a wall decorated with messages wishing Mandela well.

The former political prisoner is hailed as the architect of South Africa’s incredible journey from white minority rule to landmark multiracial elections in 1994.

He was hospitalised on June 8 with a stubborn lung infection dating from his 27 years locked up on the notorious Robben Island and in other apartheid prisons.

According to local media, elders from Mandela’s Thembu clan were due to visit the Nobel Peace laureate on Wednesday as his “Rainbow Nation” comes to terms with the increasing frailty of the man fondly known by his clan name Madiba.

The elders want to visit Mandela to “discuss what should be done,” an unnamed local chief told The Times newspaper, alluding to disagreement among family members over his burial site.

A row reportedly broke out between family members Tuesday over whether to move the graves of Mandela’s three children to his childhood village where he is expected to be laid to rest, with grandson Mandla Mandela said to have stormed out of the meeting in anger.

Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba visited Pretoria’s Mediclinic Heart Hospital late Tuesday to pray with wife Graca Machel “at this hard time of watching and waiting”.

The archbishop’s prayer seemed to echo a growing feeling of inevitability about Mandela’s condition that is increasingly voiced by South Africans, to whom he remains a beacon of moral authority, even though he stepped back from public life a decade ago.

“Grant Madiba eternal healing and relief from pain and suffering,” the prayer said.

“Grant him, we pray, a quiet night and a peaceful, perfect, end.”

A makeshift campsite has sprung up in front of the hospital as international television crews descend on South Africa awaiting word on Mandela’s health, competing with his supporters for space on the pavement.

“I pray for him, every day, every morning so he must not die now,” said Folashade Olaitan.

School children brought a poster they had drawn with the words “We love u Tata (father)”.

Meanwhile messages of goodwill flooded in from overseas.

In only her fifth ever tweet, Hillary Clinton offered “love and prayers to our great friend, Madiba, his family and his nation during this difficult time.”

The White House has also sent its wishes but could not yet say whether his ill health would affect a planned visit by US President Barack Obama to South Africa this weekend as part of a tour of Africa.

Mandela’s fragile state of health has sparked speculation that the tour could be halted, or radically changed, if the anti-apartheid icon passes away in the hours before Obama leaves, or while he is on the continent.

South Africa’s foreign minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane said that while Obama would have loved to see Mandela, a meeting with the former South African leader would be impossible as he was “indisposed.”

Mandela — who is due to celebrate his 95th birthday on July 18 — has been hospitalised four times since December, mostly for lung problems dating back to his time in jail.

The world watched as the man once branded a terrorist by the United States and Britain raised his fist as he walked free from prison near Cape Town in 1990.

Mandela went on to negotiate an end to almost half a century of white minority rule and won the country’s first fully democratic elections.

He forged a path of racial reconciliation during his single term as president, before taking up a new role as a roving elder statesman and leading AIDS campaigner.

He stepped back from public life in 2004 and has not been seen in public the football World Cup finals in South Africa

With his health now fading, Mandela’s supporters are becoming resigned to his mortality —while preparing to celebrate his legacy.

“He’s now (nearly) 95 years old so we don’t have to worry about him,’ 40-year-old Jauffre Basube said. “I think he’s done what he’s supposed to do.”