Mr Mandela, 94, is understood to be conscious and able to recognise and greet his wife Graca and other members of his large family who have rushed to his bedside in recent days.
“We appreciate the messages of support from all over the world. It is an honour for us as South Africans to share Madiba with the international community. We are so proud to call him our own.”
His announcement, after a series of updates in which his condition was described only as “serious but stable”, was greeted by cheers and applause from MPs. South Africans in recent days have begun to whisper what was previously taboo – that the end might really be near for their nation’s greatest hero.
Newspaper editorials have carried headlines such as “After Madiba”, referring to him by his clan name, while radio phone ins have seen people discuss their own decisions about ending life-prolonging medical care for elderly relatives.
Mbuso Mandela, one of the Nobel Peace laureate’s grandsons, told The Daily Telegraph that the family was now “hoping for the best”.
“It has been quite intense but we’ve pulled through and we are still united as a family, that’s what’s important,” he said. “We are so thankful to the millions of people who have kept him in their prayers.”
He stressed that no one was yet celebrating in the family, as the situation could still change. “It is what it is,” he said. “We just hope for the best. I’d like him around for another five to ten years.”
He said he took no issue with the growing appreciation of his grandfather’s mortality. “For me personally, I have known he was going to go for a while but because he has done so much in the past, everyone assumes he’s invincible.
“It’s good to know that everyone has come to this realisation that he is human. It’s better that way.”
The news of Mr Mandela’s health improvement came 49 years to the day that he was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage, along with seven other anti-apartheid fighters.
“Because of their sacrifices and the foundation that was laid for a free and democratic South Africa, our country is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994, even though we still have so much work to do,” Mr Zuma told MPs.
Meanwhile outside Mr Mandela’s Johannesburg home, a group of five-year-olds delivered “Get Well Soon” cards and others laid flowers.