News Column

Media Scrambling to Get Word on Mandela's Whereabouts

Dec 17, 2012
Nelson Mandela

The whereabouts of former president Nelson Mandela who is receiving treatment for a lung infection have puzzled journalists who are scrambling to get first- hand as well as first-time information about the anti-apartheid hero's conditions.

Since Mandela was hospitalized on Dec. 8, crowds of journalists had camped outside the 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria, where Mandela was believed to be treated for his illness. But the Presidency hinted on Thursday Mandela was not treated at that hospital.

This prompted journalists to change camping sites. This time they targeted the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria. Since early Friday, groups of journalists have been streaming to open grounds outside the hospital to set up their camps.

The Beeld newspaper said that Mandela had been admitted to the hospital under a pseudonym.

It reported that security at the hospital was tight and that a number of black bakkies and cars, identical to those used by the police's VIP unit, could be seen on its ground.

The paper also said Mandela's wife Graca Machel, President Jacob Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki had visited the hospital recently.

These reports helped draw a large contingent of journalists to the hospital. There are also rumors that Mandela has been released from hospital.

The government has been under fire for misleading the media about where Mandela was being treated.

In response to such criticism, the Presidency said on Thursday the government had never identified the hospital where Mandela is staying.

"We have noted media speculation about the hospital at which former President Mandela may be receiving medical attention," the Presidency said in a statement.

Mandela "is being treated at a Pretoria hospital as said from the first statement we issued," the statement said. "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 Madiba without interruptions or undue pressure."

The Presidency urged the media to respect Mandela's privacy while he was receiving treatment.

"While we understand the interest in the story, we urge the media to respect the former President's privacy."

In an earlier statement, the Presidency said doctors had concluded tests on Mandela, and the tests revealed a recurrence of a previous lung infection.

Mandela was being treated accordingly and he was responding to the treatment, the Presidency said.

Mandela's hospital stay this time is his longest since 2001, when he underwent seven weeks of radiotherapy after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

In January 2011, Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for an acute respiratory infection for a short period. In February this year, he spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complain.

Mandela turned 94 on July 18 this year. His health has been a focus of concern.

Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years during apartheid, was elected the country's first black president in 1994.

Source: Copyright Xinhua News Agency - CEIS 2012

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