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Mandela not in a 'vegetative' state - presidency

05 July 2013, 07:52 Genevieve Quintal and Stuart Graham

Johannesburg - Doctors treating former president Nelson Mandela have denied that he is in a vegetative state, the presidency said on Thursday.

"We confirm our earlier statement released this afternoon [Thursday] after President Jacob Zuma visited Madiba in hospital that Madiba remains in a critical, but stable condition," spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

He said Mandela was under the care of a "multi-disciplinary" panel of medical experts drawn from the SA Military Health Services, the public and private sector, and universities.

"Under this panel, a team of doctors, nurses, paramedics and other health professionals attend to Madiba on a 24-hour basis."

The statement from the presidency came after court documents surfaced stating that Mandela was in a "permanent vegetative state" and that his family had been advised to turn off his life support machine.

The certificate of urgency dated June 27 and submitted to the Eastern Cape High Court was widely reported by local and international media. A copy was obtained by Sapa.

In it, an advocate for the Mandela family said he had been advised by his instructing attorney that Mandela's condition had "taken a turn for the worst (sic) and that the Mandela family have been advised by the medical practitioners that his life support machines should be switched off".

"Rather than prolonging his suffering the Mandela family is exploring this option as a very real probability."

The document was attributed to David Smith, an advocate representing 15 members of the Mandela family in a court case against Mandela's grandson, Mandla Mandela.

Wording changed

In the document, Smith described Mandela's health as perilous, and said he was in a permanent vegetative state and was being assisted in breathing by a life support machine.

"Affidavits will be provided, at the hearing of this application, from his treating physicians that he is in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life support machine," he said.

"The anticipation of his impending death is based on real and substantial grounds."

A later version of the document filed in the 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 practise 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.

Remains reburied

On Wednesday, the Eastern Cape High Court ordered Mandla Mandela to return the remains of his grandfather's three children to Qunu from Mvezo, where he moved them two years ago.

The remains were those of Mandela's eldest son Madiba Thembekile, who died in a car accident in 1969; Mandla Mandela's father Makgatho Mandela, who died in 2005; and Mandela's first daughter Makaziwe Mandela, who died as an infant in 1948.

The bones were reburied at a ceremony at a gravesite at Nelson Mandela's home in Qunu on Thursday afternoon.


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