Nelson Mandela remains critical , says Zuma

Doctors doing ’everything possible’ to ensure comfort of former South African president

Former South African president Nelson Mandela remains in a critical condition in hospital, President Jacob Zuma said this morning.

“Doctors are doing everything possible to ensure his well-being and comfort,” Mr Zuma told a news conference in Johannesburg.

He declined to answer specific questions about Mandela’s condition, saying he had no further information.

The news conference followed a statement released last night by the presidency released to say that Mr Mandela’s condition had become critical.


The official update came after a weekend in which media organisations reported the anti-apartheid hero, who has been in a Pretoria hospital for more than two weeks receiving treatment for a recurring lung infection, had become unresponsive.

South African president Jacob Zuma visited the Nobel Peace Prize winner in the Medi-Clinic Hospital in Pretoria yesterday, where he was briefed by Mr Mandela's medical team, according to Mac Maharaj, his spokesman.

The medical team informed him Mr Mandela’s condition had become critical over the previous 24 hours.

Mr Zuma, who was accompanied by the African National Congress's deputy leader Cyril Ramaphosa, also met Mr Mandela's wife, Graça Machel, at the hospital, Mr Maharaj said.

“The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba [Mr Mandela’s clan name] is well looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands,” said Mr Zuma in the statement.

Lung infection

Mr Mandela (94) has been in hospital for more than two weeks receiving treatment for a lung infection that has hospitalised him three times since last December. South Africa's first democratically elected leader has had trouble with his lungs since he caught tuberculosis while in prison on Robben Island off Cape Town.

Public concern about Mr Mandela’s health has been extremely high since he was admitted to hospital in early June.

Both Mr Mandela’s hospital and his Johannesburg home have been besieged by local and international media outlets, such is the global interest in his health.

All vehicles entering the hospital premises are being checked and searched by police who have cordoned off the area, forcing media to stay at the opposite side of the road to two entrances into the hospital.

While his condition has officially remained serious since he was admitted to hospital, over the past week a number of family members and officials had indicated his health had begun to improve.

On June 13th Mr Zuma, whose office has released all the official medical updates on the statesman’s wellbeing, said his health was improving, although his condition remained serious.

Late last week one of Mr Mandela's grandsons, Ndaba Mandela, said his grandfather was getting better and he hoped he would be home soon, while former South African president Thabo Mbeki had also indicated his health had improved.

However, on Saturday US network CBS News said sources had told it that Mr Mandela was unresponsive and his liver and kidneys were functioning at only 50 per cent.

In his statement last night Mr Zuma appealed to the nation and the world to pray for Mr Mandela, the family and the medical team that is attending to him during this difficult time.

Mr Mandela is respected around the world for the manner in which he preached reconciliation with his oppressors after leading the fight against white minority rule in South Africa. He was imprisoned for 27 years.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 and left government in 1999 after five years as president.

Additional reporting Reuters

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South Africa