Mandela's health 'perilous'
Doctors advised family to turn off life support machine, say court documents
Graca Machel, wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, yesterday spoke about her husband’s condition for the first time, saying he was “sometimes uncomfortable” but “fine”. Photograph: Reuters
Doctors treating Nelson Mandela said he was in a “permanent vegetative state” and advised his family to turn off his life-support machine, according to court documents obtained yesterday by the AFP news agency.
“He is in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life-support machine,” said an affidavit dated June 26th relating to a family dispute over the reburial of the remains of three of Mr Mandela’s children.
“The Mandela family have been advised by the medical practitioners that his life-support machine should be switched off,” the document read, according to the agency.
Different claims about Mr Mandela’s health have emerged from the court documents filed in the dispute, as well as from family members and friends.
Mr Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe submitted her father’s health was “perilous”, involving assisted breathing, in support of her case for immediate court intervention in the burial dispute. But Mr Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela contested this in court, rejecting suggestions that there was an imminent threat to his grandfather’s life.
Mr Mandela’s wife, Graça Machel, yesterday spoke about her husband’s condition for the first time at an event in Johannesburg. Referring to him by his clan name Madiba, she said he was “sometimes uncomfortable” but was “fine”, and thanked people for their support.
South African president Jacob Zuma visited Mr Mandela in hospital in Pretoria yesterday and said his condition of “critical but stable” remained unchanged.
As the country eagerly awaited each health update, the dispute within Mr Mandela’s family took a turn for the worse. At a press conference in Eastern Cape, Mandla Mandela accused Makaziwe Mandela and other family members of taking him to court in “revenge” for his opposition to their attempt to gain control of Mr Mandela’s trust fund.
Mr Mandela’s eldest daughter, along with her half-sister Zenani, have sought the removal of three respected appointees to the trust, including George Bizos, the lawyer who defended Mr Mandela against a potential death penalty in the 1964 Rivonia treason trial.
Mandla Mandela had refused to join the other family members in this litigation, and said he had been made a “target” for taking this stance.
Explaining how “an entire family of mine turned against me”, he said: “This is the very family that has taken their own father, their own grandfather, to court for his monies.”
He insisted he had the authority to act on Mr Mandela’s behalf as the eldest male heir and having been elevated to the position of clan leader in a traditional ceremony in 2007. He questioned the credibility of some of those who had joined his aunt in the court action against him, saying they had abandoned their own families to “jump on the Mandela wagon”.
In court papers, Makaziwe Mandela accused him of moving the bodies of three of Mr Mandela’s children to Mvezo from the family’s original graveyard in Qunu so he could profit from a planned visitors’ centre.
A judge this week ordered that the remains be returned to Qunu.