The remarks by Mandla Mandela were the latest sign that his 94-year-old grandfather was responding to treatment after being rushed to hospital a week ago.
Mandla said the man who became South Africa’s first black president “looked good” when he visited him in a Pretoria hospital, where he has been listed in a serious condition.
“It gave us hope that he is going to recover soon,” Mandla said at the funeral of a cousin of the former president in Qunu, Mandela’s home village in the rural Eastern Cape.
Mourners at the funeral of Florence Mandela, who died on June 1 aged 97, prayed and sang hymns to the beat of traditional drums for the ailing statesman.
The reverend leading the service said a special prayer and called on the mourners to observe a moment of silence for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as he spent an eighth day in hospital.
“We would like to assure you of our prayers for the icon, for the father of this nation,” Reverend Wellington Manciya told the Mandela family.
“We are praying for his recovery. We are praying that you be next to his every minute, every hour and every moment,” he said.
One mourner, Zine Mgavu, 50, said he trusted the latest information on the health of the frail statesman “because it came from a family member”.
“We’re feeling great, it gives us hope that he will come back home,” said Mgavu, a Qunu resident.
In his first few days in hospital, there had been growing acceptance in the country that the much-loved father of the “Rainbow Nation” may be nearing the end of his life.
Elizabeth Mshweshwe, 77, who is related to the Mandelas, also welcomed the latest news.
“We were so happy and we are hoping that he is going to be better,” said Mshweshwe, adding that they still want to stay with him.
Mandela, the hero of the struggle against white-minority rule, spent his early boyhood in Qunu and returned to build a house once freed from 27 years in jail in 1990.
Ill health forced him to leave the village last year and he has been in hospital four times since December, including an 18-day stint that month.
On Thursday, President Jacob Zuma said Mandela’s health “continues to improve” but he “remains serious” after paying him a visit. No new update from the government has been released.
Funeral goer Nomfusi Ngqeleni would also like to see him released from hospital
“We are very grateful for what he has done for the community. Our community is well known, everywhere in the world because of his legacy,” she told AFP.
“And we feel that the Lord won’t take him away from us. We are going to pray very, very hard. We want tata (father) Madiba back at home,” she said, using Mandela’s clan name.
Mandela has a long history of lung problems since being diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988 during his 27 years in prison at the hands of the apartheid regime.
Experts say that infection makes him vulnerable to recurrent lung infections.
In December he underwent surgery to remove gallstones as he recovered from a lung infection. Then in March he was admitted for a scheduled overnight check-up before returning to hospital later that month for 10 days.
Messages of support have been pouring in for the leader who became the country’s first black president in 1994.
Last week a small group of people held a candlelight vigil overnight outside the private clinic in Pretoria, while schoolchildren left flowers outside the gate of his Johannesburg home.