Nelson Mandela in ‘permanent vegetative state’, court was told

Nelson Mandela in ‘permanent vegetative state’, court was told

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, center, is embraced by her daughter Zindzi Mandela, second from left, as the leaves the Mediclinic Heart Hospital on Thursday evening
Picture: AP

By Aislinn Laing, Johannesburg5:57PM BST 04 Jul 2013
Doctors have advised turning off Nelson Mandela’s life support machine because he was in a “permanent vegetative state”, according to a report by AFP.

Medics treating Mr Mandela, who is entering his fourth week of hospital treatment for a recurring lung infection, have said the family should consider letting him go rather than “prolonging his suffering”, reports the news agency which cited a court document it had seen.

“He is in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life support machine,” read the document, dated June 26, which was submitted by lawyers acting for Mr Mandela’s oldest daughter Makaziwe and others in a court battle with another family faction over burial rights.

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“The Mandela family have been advised by the medical practitioners that his life support machine should be switched off. Rather than prolonging his suffering, the Mandela family is exploring this option as a very real probability.”

The claim came as Mr Mandela’s wife Graca spoke publicly for the first time about her 94-year-old husband, saying he was “fine” and not in too much pain.

Referring to Mr Mandela by his clan name, she said: “Although Madiba sometimes may be uncomfortable, very few times he is in pain, but he is fine.”

President Jacob Zuma, who visited Mr Mandela in hospital today, added in a fresh statement that he remained “critical but stable”.

Later his spokesman, Mac Maharaj, questioned whether Mr Mandela’s condition had been exaggerated by lawyers acting for the family in the court case.

“I have not seen the court records, and the president is not part of the court action,” he said. “We have reported even today as a result of President Zuma’s visit that Madiba remains in a critical but stable condition, and that is based on Mr Zuma going to the hospital and being briefed by the doctors.

“Certainly in that statement, there is no suggestion that he is in a vegetative state.”

The new details that suggest that Mr Mandela is close to death emerged in a statement entitled Certificate of Urgency given to a High Court close to Mr Mandela’s rural home in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, where he grew up.

On Wednesday, the court ruled that three of the former statesman’s children who predeceased him be immediately exhumed and reburied in a hillside plot which he is expected to occupy when he dies.

Makaziwe Mandela, backed by Miss Machel and most of the large Mandela family, took his oldest grandson Mandla Mandela, to court after he dug up the bodies from Qunu two years ago and moved them to the nearby village of Mvezo, where he is a traditional chief and has built a visitor centre.

On Thursday, having disinterred the remains from their graves in Mvezo and had them sent to a nearby town for forensic tests, Mr Mandela’s family are thought to have reburied them in the grounds of his Qunu home.

According to the court papers, Makaziwe accused Mandla, 39, of seeing “monetary gain” by moving the bodies in anticipation of the tourists who would want to visit Mr Mandela’s grave. He was also accused of being illegitimate, and therefore not entitled to the chieftaincy he now holds.

The escalating feud between the wider Mandela family has transfixed and appalled South Africa in equal measure and yesterday descended into soap opera farce.

Mandla Mandela called a press conference on Wednesday in which he accused Makaziwe Mandela of seeking to “sow divisions and destruction in the family”.

The “Certificate of Urgency” document was presented at the end of last month as Mr Zuma reported that Mr Mandela’s health had faltered and cancelled a trip to Mozambique.

But the next day Mr Zuma reported that Mr Mandela’s condition had “improved during the course of the night”, declaring: “He is much better today than he was when I saw him last night. The medical team continues to do a sterling job.”

Since then the government has said Mr Mandela’s condition remains “critical but stable”, but has provided few details, citing patient confidentiality.

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