Mandela in intensive care: Mac Maharaj

Journalists waiting for news during a previous Mandela hospitalisation

Former president Nelson Mandela is receiving intensive care at a Pretoria hospital, presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said on Monday.

“Today the doctors are saying his condition is unchanged,” he told reporters from his office at the Union Buildings.

“He is under expert attention and they [doctors] are doing everything to keep him comfortable.”

Maharaj said a report in The Star suggesting the Mandela family had barred the ANC and government from visiting Madiba were unfortunate.

“There is no substance to that. It’s very unfortunate that one particular newspaper chose to run with that as a headline. I’ve read that report and it has no single source it attributes to, except three unnamed sources.

“There are restrictions which arise from the fact that Madiba is under intensive care. Those are medical restrictions to control movement of people [to exclude the] possibility of visitors bringing infection into the environment,” said Maharaj.

The Star newspaper reported that the Mandela family had taken charge of the 94-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner’s hospital stay, banning everyone, including government leaders and senior party officials, from visiting him.

The African National Congress on Monday said it was unaware of this.

Maharaj said President Jacob Zuma was scheduled to visit Mandela in hospital, but did not say when.

“His [Zuma’s] focus now is to allow the medical team every opportunity to concentrate on their job. To allow the closest relatives to go there and be close to him. As head of state, president Zuma will visit at the appropriate time. We just want Madiba to get better.”

ANC MP and Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, had been at the hospital.

Maharaj said the 48 hours between Saturday to Monday, when there was no update on Mandela’s health, was caused by the lack of progress on the elder statesman’s health.

“You would not want a repetition of the same thing over and over. I know you want him to get better, but we can’t give you good news if it’s false. We can’t give you bad news when it’s not true.

Local and international journalists spent the day outside the two entrances to the Pretoria hospital where Mandela was believed to be. Security guards had been posted at the entrances.

More than 10 broadcast vans were there. Some journalists had erected small tents and others had generators. Passers-by stopped to ask about Mandela. – Sapa