Johannesburg, South Africa – Nelson Mandela remains hospitalized one week after he was admitted to hospital with a recurring lung infection.
However, the condition and location of Mandela remain unclear after government officials seemed to contradict one another.
According to Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, she visited Nelson Mandela on Monday at 1 Military Hospital near South Africa’s capital, Pretoria. Addressing journalists after the visit, Mapisa-Nqakula said:
“We confirm that former President Mandela is in (the) hospital, 1 Military Hospital, and he’s doing very, very well.”
Yet when local media reported that Mandela wasn’t actually at the hospital on Thursday, government spokesman Mac Maharaj refused to give Mandela’s real location, simply telling press:
“President Mandela is being treated at a Pretoria hospital as said from the first statement we issued. We have refrained from disclosing the hospital in order to ensure privacy and also to allow doctors space to do their work of caring for (him) without interruptions or undue pressure.”
When questions were inevitably raised about Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s original statement, the government refused to offer an explanation. Sonwabo Mbananga, a defense department spokesman, said Friday that “the minister is not going to clarify anything” about her remarks on Monday.
Mac Maharaj spoke to The Associated Press again on Friday afternoon, explaining that officials were “trying to protect his privacy.” Like Mbananga, Maharaj declined an invitation to comment further, only revealing that Mandela “has been comfortable the past 24 hours and continues to receive care.”
The lack of information about Nelson Mandela is reportedly causing concern and frustration amongst South Africa’s 50 million-strong population. The government has repeatedly said there is “no cause for alarm.”
Mandela, the elderly patriarch of South African democracy who will turn 95 next year, is known to have a history of lung-related problems. He contracted tuberculosis in 1988 as he neared the end of his 27 years in prison before being released and elected president. While medical experts said no permanent damage had been caused to his lungs at the time, tuberculosis can cause problems years later for those infected.
Mandela also suffered from an acute respiratory infection in January 2011. His treatment on that occasion led to chaotic scenes at the public hospital that treated Mandela. Since then, the South African military took charge of his care while the government agreed to dispense information about his health.