Madiba hospital drama


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92-year-old Nelson Mandela is alert but visibly frail in this November, 2010 picture.

Old and frail, Nelson Mandela is in hospital for “routine” tests and Independent Newspapers has established that Madiba has been seen by a pulmonologist.

Professor Michael Plit, a specialist pulmonologist - who deals with diseases of the respiratory system - at Milpark Hospital, confirmed that he had seen Mandela on Wednesday.

“He has been admitted for investigation,” Plit said on Wednesday night.

He would not say what Mandela’s condition was, or whether he had examined him, except to say that he had seen him.

However, Plit has consulted Mandela medically several times in the past and has been described as Madiba’s personal physician.

Security around the hospital was tight and a source said the ward he was in was considered “the most private and secure” in the hospital.

Each person had a private cubicle in the ward.

On the National Asthma Education Programme website, Plit describes his medical interests as obstructive lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesman Sello Hatang released a brief statement confirming the former statesman was at Milpark Hospital undergoing routine tests.

“He is in no danger and is in good spirits,” Hatang said.

Members of the Mandela family were seen coming and going at the hospital by reporters.

A staffer from the French news agency AFP saw Mandela’s wife, Graça Machel, leaving the hospital at about 5.30pm, with four other family members departing shortly after.

At a far corner of the hospital, a makeshift barrier of green mesh was erected. Inside the area were VIP cars, presumably belonging to family members.

As night fell over Johannesburg, journalists, photographers and cameramen lined a nearby bridge outside the hospital.

 

One of Mandela’s grandsons was seen buying magazines and refreshments at the hospital eatery. Ndaba Mandela and his youngest brother were also seen near the barricaded area.

Mandela’s long-time aide, Zelda la Grange, flanked by a bodyguard, entered the barricaded area. La Grange, who arrived in the early evening, refused to comment.

Hospital security remained on high alert, ushering wandering journalists to the bridge.

Some journalists sat inside the hospital waiting area, blending with hospital visitors and patients. One journalist, carrying a brown paper bag, was seen limping in an attempt to blend in with the ill.

A hospital nurse standing outside the main entrance was overheard saying: “I saw him being flown in (by helicopter) at 2pm.”

In the past, medical tests conducted at the hospital were done relatively quietly.

But security guards at the hospital were on high alert on Wednesday night as news of the former president’s hospitalisation spread.

Scores of relatives were received behind a green mesh cordon set up just outside the front entrance of the hospital.

Among the relatives in attendance were his eldest grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela, Zindzi Mandela and a number of grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The only time relatives used the hospital’s main entrance was when they went to buy refreshments from the café.

Throngs of journalists who converged on the hospital were asked to leave the premises.

But they took up camp on the Barry Hertzog flyover bridge with views over the hospital.

At about 8pm, metro police arrived and attempted to forcibly remove journalists from the bridge. They refused, with the police eventually giving up.

 

Several weeks ago, rumours about Mandela’s death circulated on social network Twitter.

The rumour was condemned as malicious and insensitive by the ANC. Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport said though the rumours were false, reliable sources had confirmed that Mandela’s health had deteriorated.

 

This week, fellow Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu said he had seen Mandela last week. “He was all right, I mean he’s 92, man, you know. And he’s frail.”

In mid-January, a Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesman said Mandela was well and on holiday with his wife Graça Machel. - Pretoria News


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