Johannesburg - Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula paid tribute to the doctors and nurses who cared for former president Nelson Mandela until he died on Thursday night.
“These are the people who for the past three... four years have spent their lives and days looking after this man,” said Mapisa-Nqakula by telephone.
“They left their families, they relocated... to take care of Tata.”
She said that on the night he died, the medical staff said their final farewells to him and left the room.
When they filed down the stairs, she almost broke down in tears when she saw them.
“I have instructed the South African National Defence Force that they shall be rewarded and honoured for the work they have done.”
She said that includes that police officers and the household staff at his Houghton and Qunu homes.
Mandela's widow Graca Machel has insisted that at Mandela's memorial at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday and at his funeral in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Saturday, they be acknowledged, she continued.
With the South African National Defence Force responsible for his medical care, it used a panel of about 20 doctors drawn from the SANDF, the reserve force, and some university professors.
“Amazingly, some were civilians, but because they had taken an oath in their career of patient-doctor confidentiality they never leaked... and for that we are forever grateful.”
She said after Mandela's last admission to hospital in Pretoria in June for a lung infection, at around the time of his birthday in July, President Jacob Zuma cancelled a trip to Mozambique.
Speculation was mounting over Mandela's condition.
“All of us could see Madiba was very sick. There was a hullabaloo about why he (Zuma) cancelled a trip to Mozambique. The president cancelled because things were really bad.
“That information never leaked. So much happened and there were moments that... you would realise they (nurses and doctors) were exhausted, but very determined to look after the old man.”
“None of them ever sold the story of exactly what was happening behind doors in Houghton, behind doors in hospital.” - Sapa