Nelson Mandela's doctors said the former South African leader was in critical but stable, not in a vegetative state as reported, the president's office said.
A court document filed by family members in a dispute over the burial site for his three dead children described Mandela as facing "pending death" and being kept alive by machines as retired archbishop Desmond Tutu warned Mandela's family not to "besmirch his name," the British newspaper The Independent reported Friday.
Mandela, South Africa's first black president and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was taken to a Pretoria hospital in early June for a recurring lung infection. Current South African President Jacob Zuma has visited Mandela several times, including Thursday, and said Mandela's condition was critical but stable.
Dr. Adri Kok of the Faculty of Consulting Physicians of South Africa told The Independent use of life support systems for an extended period "indicates a very poor prognosis for recovery because it means that he's either too weak or too sick to breathe on his own."
Kok is not involved in the care or treatment of Mandela, who has been on life support since late June.
Meanwhile, Tutu, also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said the very public dispute over the children's burial site is "almost like spitting in Madiba's [Mandela's clan name] face."
Mandela's grandson, Mandla Mandela, moved the remains to his nearby homestead in Mvezo as part of a plan to open a heritage center dedicated to his grandfather. Family members objected and went to court to force Mandla Mandela to return the remains to the family plot in Qunu
The bodies have been exhumed and positively identified.
"Your anguish, now, is the nation's anguish -- and the world's," Tutu said. "We want to embrace you, to support you, to shine our love for Madiba through you. Please may we not besmirch his name."
During a fundraising event for children's hospital to be named in Mandela's honor, his wife, Graca Machel, said even though her husband is sometimes uncomfortable, he hasn't been in much pain since he was hospitalized June 8, The Independent said.
"Whatever is the outcome of his stay in hospital," she said, "that will remain the second time where he offered his nation an opportunity to be united under the banner of our flag, under the banner of our constitution."
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