Zuma reassures SA on Mandela
12 June 2013, 09:50
Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has sought to reassure
an uneasy nation that Nelson Mandela, although in a "very serious"
condition as he battles a recurrent lung infection, is receiving the best of
Zuma got a briefing on Tuesday from doctors on the condition
of the frail former president, who has showed no sign of improvement after four
days in hospital.
In a terse interview on Tuesday, Zuma said the 94-year-old
father of modern South Africa was in a stable condition.
"We are all feeling it, that our president, the real
father of democracy in South Africa, is in the hospital," Zuma told public
broadcaster SABC as Mandela was to spend a fifth day in hospital.
"We need him to be with us," Zuma said. "And
I'm sure, knowing him as I do, he's a good fighter and he'll be with us very
Zuma said he had full confidence in the medics attending to
the former statesman, who was rushed to hospital in the early hours of
"Whilst it is very serious... he's stabilised and we
are all praying for him really to recuperate quickly," he said.
Zuma's spokesperson Mac Maharaj earlier told AFP that
"stable has not meant better or worse, what it means is that his condition
is not changing."
Mandela's relatives streamed to the Medi Clinic Heart
Hospital in Pretoria to be at his bedside as fears grew over his condition.
Security was tightened around the private facility, where a
dozen armed police stood guard outside and incoming vehicles and pedestrians were
searched amid a heavy media presence.
A police sergeant told AFP that the officers had been
deployed at the hospital "to protect the members of his family who come to
Mandela's daughters Makaziwe and Zindzi, as well as former
wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were seen entering the hospital on Tuesday
His current wife, Graca Machel, called off a trip to London
last week to be with her ailing husband.
Tuesday marked 49 years to the day since Mandela was
convicted in 1964 for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government. A day
later he was sentenced to life in prison.
Mandela's latest health scare has been met with a growing
acceptance among South Africans that their hero, who became the first black
leader of the country after historic all-race elections in 1994, may be nearing
the end of his life.
He has a long history of lung problems since being diagnosed
with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988. This is his fourth hospital stay since
Two months ago the Nobel peace laureate, who turns 95 next
month, was discharged after treatment for pneumonia.
In December he underwent surgery to remove gallstones as he
recovered from a lung infection. Then in March he was admitted for a scheduled
overnight check-up before returning to hospital later that month for 10 days.
"Pneumonia is a killer disease," said Keertan
Dheda, the head of pulmonology at the University of Cape Town.
"In Mr Mandela's case, besides age, we know that he has
previously had tuberculosis and that can weaken the lung defences and make one
more prone to infections."
In late April, Zuma and top officials in the African
National Congress were photographed with an unsmiling Mandela looking
exceedingly frail at his Johannesburg home.
The visit prompted allegations that the embattled party was
exploiting Mandela for political gain.
The ANC, facing 2014 elections, has lost much of its Mandela
shine amid widespread corruption, poverty and poor public services.
Mandela has not been seen in public since the World Cup
final in South Africa in July 2010, and has not been politically active for
"I think there will be concerns from outside South
Africa that Mandela is seen as the glue that holds South Africa together,"
analyst Daniel Silke told AFP.
"But I think that this is something long gone,
After serving just one term as president, Mandela turned his
energy to the battle against Aids and to conflict resolution, before stepping
out of the public eye at age 85.
Ordinary people, young and old, on Tuesday left messages of
support outside his home in northern Johannesburg.
A couple wearing T-shirts bearing the words "We love
you Papa Mandela" placed a teddy bear in a similar shirt outside the gate.
Others wrote messages of support on small stones outside the
high security walls, while a group of schoolchildren stopped by to sing for him
to "get well".
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