South Africa

Nelson Mandela in Pretoria hospital; Presidency says no cause for alarm

By J Brooks Spector 9 December 2012

Madiba has been admitted to hospital in Pretoria, but the official line is that at his age, that's perfectly normal and there's nothing to worry about. One hopes. By J BROOKS SPECTOR.

Former president Nelson Mandela was admitted to Military Hospital in Pretoria on Saturday. Now 94 years old, Mandela has been hospitalized several times in the past few years for respiratory and gastrointestinal complaints.

This time around an official statement from the Office of the Presidency came more quickly than during previous hospitalisations. The statement said, “As said before, former President Mandela will receive medical attention from time to time which is consistent with his age. President Zuma assures all that Madiba is doing well and there is no cause for alarm.” President Jacob Zuma added, “We wish Madiba all the best. The medical team is assured of our support as they look after and ensure the comfort of our beloved founding president of a free and democratic South Africa.”

Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black head of state following the country’s unprecedented all-race elections that took place in 1994. Following the completion of his one five-year term of office, Nelson Mandela has slowly withdrawn from public life, making his last public appearance at the championship match of the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament in Johannesburg. He now spends most of his time in his ancestral home of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape. Although living quietly with family, he has welcomed occasional high profile visitors such as former US president Bill Clinton.

Given his age, increasing physical frailness and status as the revered national father figure by people across the country’s racial spectrum, the South African government has become increasingly intent on reassuring the country about Mandela’s health, especially following the public anxiety during Mandela’s 2011 health scare when his hospitalization for an acute respiratory infection was initially announced as a round of routine tests.

In February this year he was admitted to 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria for keyhole surgery to evaluate an abdominal complaint. A year earlier he was in Johannesburg’s Milpark Hospital for that respiratory infection. Over the years, Mandela’s health concerns have included tuberculosis contracted during his time in prison as well as prostate surgery in 1985 while he was still in prison. The South African military has taken responsibility for his medical care since the February hospitalization.

While presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj declined to say if the military had flown Mandela to Pretoria for this most recent round of hospitalization, Maharaj did tell the media, “It’s quite normal at his age to be going through those tests.”

However, Mandela’s most recent hospitalization comes just a few days after a South African military aircraft, apparently en-route to the city of Mthatha, some thirty kilometres from Mandela’s Qunu home, crashed in the Drakensberg Mountains. Eleven people died in that crash. Officials remain silent on whether those lost in that crash were connected with Mandela’s medical support. DM

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