A well-wisher holds up a placard with a message of support for Nelson Mandela outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital, where the former president is being treated, in Pretoria. File photo: AP
A well-wisher holds up a placard with a message of support for Nelson Mandela outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital, where the former president is being treated, in Pretoria. File photo: AP

Mandela speculation ‘hard to bear’

By Babalo Ndenze and Sapa Time of article published Jul 5, 2013

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Johannesburg - Who is lying? This is the question on many lips on Friday as different versions of Nelson Mandela’s health are aired.

On Thursday, it emerged from court papers filed by Mandela family members that the former statesman was in a “permanent vegetative state” and doctors had advised the family that his life support should be turned off.

The revelation came as part of a family dispute over the graves of three of his children.

At the same time that this emerged, Mandela’s wife, Graça Machel, was saying that Madiba “is fine”. Speaking at the launch of the Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day in Houghton, Machel said Mandela “is uncomfortable and sometimes in pain, but he is fine”.

She thanked the world for the “message of hope it continues to send the family and Madiba”, and remarked that it was his wish that she left his bedside to attend the launch.

To add to the confusion, the Presidency sent out a statement on Thursday night saying Mandela was in a “stable but critical condition”.

“The doctors deny that the former president is in a vegetative state,” said President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj.

Meanwhile, BBC correspondent Andrew Harding said on Twitter

that Denis Goldberg – Mandela’s long-time friend and fellow Rivonia triallist – said Madiba was still “attentive” and had tried to speak to him, but couldn’t because tubes prevented his speech.

According to Harding’s tweets, Goldberg visited Mandela on Monday.

“More from Denis Goldberg on Mandela: He’s clearly a very ill man but was in far better shape than I’d have imagined from all the reports,” Harding wrote on Thursday night.

He added: “Goldberg on #mandela – I find the uninformed speculation quite difficult to bear. He’s not getting worse and he’s holding on.”

The court documents that use the words “vegetative state” are from June 26: “He is in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life-support machine.

“The Mandela family have been advised by the medical practitioners that his life-support machine should be switched off.

“Rather than prolonging his suffering, the Mandela family are exploring this option as a very real probability.”

A later version of the document filed in court omitted the paragraphs referring to Mandela’s “vegetative state” and the advice by physicians to take Mandela off life support.

 

A lawyer for the Mandela family later said the original certificate of urgency was “merely a submission outside of court”.

“To the extent there is speculation, a certificate of urgency was filed in terms of the practice of our court,” said Wesley Hayes, who represented the family in the dispute with Mandla Mandela about the graves of his father and his grandfather’s other two children.

“The certificate is not evidence, but merely submissions on why a matter should be heard outside ordinary court sittings.”

Hayes said the ruling on the urgency of the matter had been made in camera and that this “would extend to the contents of the certificate of urgency”.

“Further than that we have no comment,” he said. - The Star

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