Nelson Mandela Remains in Hospital, Serious Condition

Nelson Mandela Remains in Hospital, Serious Condition

Blog : June 11th, 2013


AdvertisementWith the South African government maintaining a stony silence over Nelson Mandela’s deteriorating health, reports filtering out of his Pretoria hospital suggest that his condition is much grimmer than officially acknowledged.

On Tuesday, for the fourth consecutive day, the government refused to disclose any information about the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero, except to continue repeating the same terse phrase that he is in “serious but stable” condition. Officials will not even confirm his hospital location.

But the secrecy appears to be concealing a battle to save Mr. Mandela’s life. A report by CBS News, citing an unnamed source, said Mr. Mandela was in a medical “crisis” and had to be resuscitated by a medical team at his home last Friday night, shortly before he was rushed to hospital at about 1:30 a.m.

The report said Mr. Mandela’s liver and functions kidney functions are impaired, working at only 50 per cent of their normal level. It said he was in the hospital’s intensive care unit, and had also been treated for a bleeding ulcer.

None of these details have been confirmed or acknowledged by the office of President Jacob Zuma, the only official channel for information on the health of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

But the decline in Mr. Mandela’s health has been indirectly confirmed by the steady stream of family members visiting him at the Pretoria hospital and holding vigil at his bedside. His wife, Graca Machel, cancelled a trip to London and has remained with him since Friday. His daughter Zenani, the South African ambassador to Argentina, has flown home to be with him. Other children and grandchildren have been visiting him all week, along with his ex-wife, Winnie.

Mr. Zuma’s office has been widely criticized for its refusal to disclose more than perfunctory details on the health of Mr. Mandela, who has been admitted to hospital four times since December. In one case last year, his office misled South Africans about the hospital where Mr. Mandela was being treated. In the latest case, Mr. Zuma’s office has said only that Mr. Mandela is being treated for a recurring lung infection.

Just a few weeks ago, Mr. Zuma and other members of his ruling African National Congress visited Mr. Mandela at his home in a Johannesburg suburb, and Mr. Zuma later claimed cheerfully that the former president was “up and about” and “looking very good.” In fact, video footage from the visit showed Mr. Mandela obviously frail, frozen-faced, unable to smile, and almost unresponsive. It was the only video image of Mr. Mandela to be released in the past 10 months.

Mr. Mandela’s fragile health is unsurprising for a man of his age, especially since he had suffered tuberculosis during his 27 years of imprisonment in the apartheid era. And there are growing signs that South Africans are reconciled to his possible imminent death. In some ways, his latest hospital admission has been a bigger story globally than it has in South Africa, where people have become accustomed to his health problems over the years. Though he is beloved by the country, many people now say they are prepared to hear the worst.

In an example of South Africa’s gradual acceptance of Mr. Mandela’s declining health, one of his former comrades has called on the Mandela family to “release” the former president. “The family must release him so that God may have his own way,” said Andrew Mlangeni, a former ANC activist who served years of imprisonment with Mr. Mandela on Robben Island.

“Once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow,” he told a South African newspaper. “We will say, ‘Thank you, God, you have given us this man, and we will release him too.”  nm

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