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Wed Aug 20 16:38:52 SAST 2014

Inside Madiba's hospital

GRAEME HOSKEN and POPPY LOUW | 12 June, 2013 00:34
A car entering the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria gets the full treatment from the security police
Image by: DANIEL BORN

A virtually impenetrable ring of security surrounds the Pretoria hospital at which former president Nelson Mandela remains in "a serious but stable condition".

Armed police are closely inspecting every vehicle and everyone who enters the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Arcadia.

Mandela - who spent a fourth day in the intensive care unit yesterday - continues to battle a recurring lung infection.

On Monday, a security guard allegedly attacked Pretoria News photographer Phill Magakoe when he took snaps of Mandela's former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and her daughter Zindzi leaving the hospital.

Yesterday, 20 policemen manned the hospital's entrances to keep the media at bay.

Inside the hospital The Times found plain-clothes policemen keeping a close watch on those entering and leaving.

The Times learned from patients, visitors, doctors, nurses and medical staff of the rapidly intensifying security measures.

Stairwells are being guarded, lifts are being monitored and the exact condition of Mandela is being kept under wraps.

Staff at the Wiesenhof coffee shop in the hospital said that everyone was being watched.

"It's over the top. Everywhere you go you see police and security.

"Some of them are in civilian clothes, others in uniform.

"I tried to use the steps because the lift was full but was stopped and questioned."

While The Times team sat in the coffee shop, a plain-clothes policeman entered and questioned several visitors drinking coffee about their business at the hospital.

"If you have no business here, you should leave," said an officer, who refused to identify himself.

When told that several coffee shop patrons were waiting to visit patients, the officer took notes and left.

A doctor's assistant revealed that even the movements of medical staff were restricted.

"It's crazy. From yesterday [Monday] no one can come in or out without being stopped and searched.

"There are certain floors to which access, even for medical staff, has been limited.

"Though restrictions are understandable, they have become extreme," she said.

A doctor said everyone was being searched.

"It is so bad our patients are staying away. Every time Mandela is admitted, the security situation becomes worse.

"The whole world knows he is here. In the past, people thought he was taken to 1 Military Hospital but he has never been there.

"Every time he was admitted to hospital it was here, with a specialist team [from] the military assisting him," she said.

News on the state of Mandela's health remains sketchy, with the Presidency continuing to describe it as "serious but stable''.

Madikizela-Mandela, Zindzi, Makaziwe, Mandela's daughter by his first wife, and his grandson, Ndaba, again visited him yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj yesterday said President Jacob Zuma had faith in Mandela's medical team.

"Zuma met the medical team. They gave him a thorough briefing," Maharaj said.

"He has full confidence in them, and is satisfied that they are doing their best."

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Wed Aug 20 16:38:52 SAST 2014 ::