Mandela 'responding to treatment' for lung infection
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has suffered a recurrence of a lung infection but is responding to treatment, according to government.
The revered anti-apartheid leader and Nobel Peace laureate is spending his fourth day in a hospital in the South African capital Pretoria. He remains a hero to many of South Africa’s 52 million people and two brief stretches in hospital in the last two years made front page news.
“Doctors have concluded the tests, and these have revealed a recurrence of a previous lung infection, for which Madiba is receiving appropriate treatment and he is responding to the treatment,” the government said in a statement.
Mandela, whose clan name is ‘Madiba’, was admitted to the Pretoria military hospital on Saturday after being flown from his home village of Qunu, which is in a remote, rural part of the Eastern Cape province.
Until now, South African authorities had given few details about the reason for his latest visit to hospital.
When he was admitted to hospital on Saturday, officials stressed there was no cause for concern although domestic media reports suggested senior members of the government and people close to him had been caught unawares.
Mandela’s hospital stay has gone into its fourth day, with his wife, Graca Machel, telling a broadcaster it pained her to see him lose his “sparkle”.
She told eNCA it was painful for her to see her husband’s health deteriorate.
“To see him ageing... it pains you. You understand and you know it has to happen... The spirit and the sparkle, you see that somehow it’s fading,” she said in an interview on Monday.
Journalists continued camping outside One Military Hospital on the outskirts of Pretoria on Tuesday morning. Soldiers were stopping and searching cars at the main entrance.
News crews, including an outside broadcast vehicle, were turned back at the entrance. Several journalists waited metres from the security checkpoint.
On Monday, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said Mandela was “doing very, very well” while undergoing unspecified medical tests.
She offered the first government confirmation that Mandela, who had received military medical care since 2011, was at that hospital.
On Monday the presidency said Mandela was fine and was due for further tests.
On Saturday, Zuma’s office announced Mandela had been admitted to a Pretoria hospital for medical tests and care that was “consistent for his age”.
Zuma visited Mandela on Sunday morning at the hospital and found the former leader “comfortable and in good care,” presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement. The condition the tests were related to had not been disclosed.
The hospital stay of South Africa’s first black president was being watched by media around the world including the LA Times, the Telegraph, Hindustan Times, and Zimbabwe Independent.
The Washington Post included a CBS newsclip in which their reporter described him as having been “physically robust” but ”mentally detached” at his 94th birthday celebration which they attended.
The Brisbane Times posted a video package of footage of him beaming with fellow African National Congress officials four years ago.
In February, Mandela spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint. In January 2011 Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests, but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection.
Mandela has had other health problems. He contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison and had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985. In 2001, Mandela underwent seven weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term.
The Nobel laureate later retired from public life to live in the remote village of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape. He made a last public appearance when South Africa hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.
The nation’s Surgeon-General was expected to give an update on Mandela’s condition later.
Symbol of justice
Mandela, South Africa’s first black president and a global symbol of resistance to racism and injustice, spent 27 years in apartheid prisons, including 18 years on the windswept Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town.
He was released in 1990 and went on to be elected president in the historic all-race elections in 1994 that ended white-minority rule in Africa’s most important economy.
He used his unparalleled prestige to push for reconciliation between whites and blacks, setting up a commission to probe crimes committed by both sides in the anti-apartheid struggle.
Mandela’s African National Congress has continued to govern since his retirement from politics in 1999, but has been criticised for perceived corruption and slowness in addressing apartheid-era inequalities in housing, education and healthcare.
His fragile health prevents him from making any public appearances in South Africa, although he has continued to receive high-profile domestic and international visitors, including former US President Bill Clinton in July.