Johannesburg - The seriousness of Nelson Mandela’s health status was driven home on Sunday when his family took charge of his hospital stay.
The Star understands that the family have barred everyone – including government leaders and senior party officials – from visiting the ailing icon, who was rushed to Pretoria’s Mediclinic Heart Hospital around 1.30am on Saturday.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe visited the same hospital on Saturday, but left without seeing Madiba.
His spokesman, Thabo Masebe, said, however, that Motlanthe was there for a scheduled appointment with his own doctor. “He never had plans to visit Mandela.”
Mandela’s family were refusing to issue any statement on Madiba’s health. Spokesman Mandla Mandela was unavailable throughout the weekend.
President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, announced for the first time that Mandela’s condition was serious. In all of Mandela’s previous hospitalisations – six times alone in the past six months – the presidency had resolutely tried to put a positive spin on statements to what it has described as routine procedures or recurring lung infections.
By the time The Star was published on Sunday night, Maharaj had still not issued an updated statement on Madiba’s health and could not be reached for comment.
The hospitalisation has puzzled observers, given the sizeable investment in resources and highly trained military medical service personnel at his Houghton, Joburg, residence after his last discharge from hospital.
The Star has learnt that Mandela’s family issued the ban once his health deteriorated at the weekend because they believe visitors are at best a distraction to efforts to keep him comfortable or at worst leak information to the media.
Three highly placed government sources told The Star on Sunday that Mandela’s condition was “scary”, but he was still holding on to life.
Well-placed sources confirmed that the so-called M-Plan, the government’s blueprint for handling every aspect of Mandela’s death – from his funeral to interment – was reactivated at the weekend following his readmission to hospital.
A senior government official said on Sunday: “The old man is not well. It’s scary. He’s still holding on to his life, but it’s bad. The family don’t want visitors because of his condition. They told the hospital not to allow anyone in because they are a distraction.”
ANC national spokesman Keith Khoza said the ruling party was watching Mandela’s condition closely.
Asked if the ANC was aware of the Mandela family’s decision to bar visitors to the hospital, Khoza replied: “No we are not. It’s only the office of the president that can comment. We don’t talk to the medical staff.”
Political parties and politicians, meanwhile, continued to wish Mandela a quick recovery on Sunday.
While Azapo wished Mandela a speedy recovery, it said he should pass on “if God is willing” because South Africans “do not wish to see images of their heroes frail”.