Pretoria - An engine part which was not included in a routine service caused the ambulance breakdown that left the ailing Nelson Mandela stranded for 45 minutes at the side of the road, according to a parliamentary reply.
On June 11, 2013, Mandela was taken to hospital in the early hours of an icy Gauteng morning, but his journey was interrupted for 45 minutes when the vehicle broke down.
Although the Presidency swiftly gave a reassurance that Madiba was not at risk as medical staff were on hand, the incident put the spotlight on the state of SANDF equipment.
In a parliamentary reply on Tuesday, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, whose department is responsible for the former state president’s health care, said the incident was not under investigation because the cause was known.
“A major service was done by a Mercedes-Benz dealer in March 2013. The vehicle was taken back to the dealer to ascertain the cause of the breakdown… The dealer indicated that the specific part did not form part of the normal checklist for the particular major service,” said her reply to DA MP David Maynier.
When the ambulance broke down, the reply said, a second military intensive care unit ambulance was dispatched with a civilian ambulance and two response vehicles which accompanied him to the Pretoria hospital where he spent more than two months.
While Mandela’s movements may be open to scrutiny, President Jacob Zuma’s helicopter flights between Durban’s King Shaka airport and his Nkandla home are not.
“I cannot reply as the information asked for is sensitive as it pertains to the movement of the state president,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
But in her parliamentary response to Maynier she said she would give the information in confidence at a meeting with Parliament’s joint standing committee on defence.