Former South African President Nelson Mandela reacts at the Mandela foundation, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday June 2, 2009, during a meeting with a group of American and South African students as part of a series of activities leading to Mandela Day on July 18th. (AP Photo/Pool-Theana Calitz-Bilt, Pool)
Former South African President Nelson Mandela reacts at the Mandela foundation,  in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday June 2, 2009, during a meeting with a group of American and South African students  as part of a series of activities leading to  Mandela Day on July 18th. (AP Photo/Pool-Theana Calitz-Bilt, Pool)
Former South African President Nelson Mandela reacts at the Mandela foundation, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday June 2, 2009, during a meeting with a group of American and South African students as part of a series of activities leading to Mandela Day on July 18th. (AP Photo/Pool-Theana Calitz-Bilt, Pool)

(CNN) — Tubes used to clear his lungs prevent Nelson Mandela from speaking, and he uses facial expressions to communicate with doctors and family, according to his former wife.

“He remains very sensitive to any germs, so he has to be kept literally sterile,” Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told South Africa’s Sunday Independent newspaper in an article published Sunday. “The bedroom there [at his home] is like an ICU ward.”

Mandela, 95, “remains quite ill,” she said, but doctors are tending to his needs at his residence in Houghton, a suburb of Johannesburg.

The tubes are used to prevent infection in Mandela, who is said to be stable.

“He communicates with the face, you see,” Madikizela-Mandela told the newspaper. “But the doctors have told us they hope to recover his voice.”

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