Media crowd growing at Mandela’s Pretoria hospital

Journalists waiting for news during a previous Mandela hospitalisation
Journalists waiting for news during a previous Mandela hospitalisation

The number of journalists outside the Pretoria hospital where former president Nelson Mandela is in a critical condition increased significantly on Monday morning.

Reporters’ vehicles, including more than 10 broadcast vans, took up almost all the parking spots adjoining the Medi-Clinic Heart hospital.

Several police officers were manning the entrances to the hospital.

Before 6am, three police officers stood at the hospital’s entrance along the busy Park Street.

The officers searched cars entering the hospital premises. More officers were inside the facility.

The hospital’s other entrance along Celliers Street was opened before 6am. Police officers and hospital security searched all vehicles, including delivery vans.

Well-wishes adorned the hospital’s security wall with get-well cards, balloons, flowers, and paintings.

Some of the messages pasted onto the wall read: “Descendants of [former Ghana leader] Kwame Nkrumah wish u long life. Bernard [from] Ghana”.

Another message imprinted on an Ethiopian flag read: “We love you our father, Tata Madiba”.

A colourful card from a Montessori pre-school was decorated with tiny children’s palm prints and numerous pictures of Madiba holding the Fifa World Cup trophy.

Some passers-by, rushing to work on Monday morning, momentarily glanced at the huge artistic display.

Several news crews converged on the hospital on Sunday night after the presidency announced that Mandela’s condition had deteriorated. Most of them had left by 3am on Monday.

However, more than 20 vehicles, including the broadcast vans for local and international media, occupied the parking along Celliers Street on Monday morning.

A few reporters braved the biting early morning cold to chat near the hospital’s Park Street entrance. Some of them held cameras.

It was a quiet night outside Mandela’s home in Johannesburg with almost no movement on Monday morning.

Shortly after 2am, a silver Jeep arrived at the house. The driver pulled up outside the black gates, flashed the vehicle’s headlights and, when there was no response, hooted twice. The gates opened.

Two broadcasting teams arrived at the house on Sunday night, but left a short while later.

The street was otherwise quiet, with only the occasional armed response patrol.

After 6am the streets became busier as people started their daily routines. A black VW Polo parked outside the gate of the house and a woman entered.

On Sunday evening presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement: “The condition of former president Nelson Mandela, who is still in hospital in Pretoria, has become critical.”

It was issued after a visit by President Jacob Zuma and African National Congress deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.

“They were briefed by the medical team who informed them that the former president’s condition had become critical over the past 24-hours,” said Maharaj.

Zuma and Ramaphosa also met Mandela’s wife Graca Machel to discuss his condition.

“The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well-looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands,” Zuma said in the statement.

He appealed to South Africans to continue praying for Mandela and his medical team.

Mandela, 94, was admitted to hospital on June 8 for treatment of a recurring lung infection. – Sapa