JOHANNESBURG, South Africa
President Jacob Zuma late Thursday denied reports that Nelson Mandela was in a “vegetative state” while confirming that the anti-apartheid icon was in “a critical but stable condition.”
The phrase describing the grim condition was used in court papers filed by members of the Mandela family — according to lawyers cited in media reports — who are feuding with the former president’s grandson, Mandla Mandela.
“The doctors deny that the former president is in a vegetative state,” Zuma’s office said.
Zuma, using Mandela’s clan name, had said after visiting the hospital Thursday afternoon: “Madiba is receiving the best medical care from a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals who are at his bedside around the clock.”
Mandela’s family, in court documents submitted last week, indicated that the first black South African president was on life-support machines to aid his breathing.
The 94-year-old Nobel peace laureate was admitted to hospital June 8 for a recurring lung infection, thought to be related to the damage inflicted on his lungs during his 27 years as a political prisoner under the apartheid regime.
Last week, Zuma canceled a trip to Mozambique, as it appeared Mandela’s condition had taken a turn for the worse. A day later, the presidency said the liberation hero’s condition had stabilized.
Meanwhile, the Mandela family is being rocked by internal disputes over where to bury Nelson Mandela when he dies.
The remains of three of Mandela’s children were reburied in their original resting place in Qunu, the family’s ancestral village, after they were exhumed Wednesday from the village of Mvezo.
The remains were moved in 2011 from Qunu to Mvezo by Mandla Mandela, the former president’s grandson, apparently without permission from the rest of the family. The family has charged he carried out the move in the hope that Nelson Mandela also would be buried there, making Mvezo a tourist attraction.
It is believed Nelson Mandela has expressed his wish to be buried near other family members in Qunu in the Eastern Cape province, in South Africa’s remote, rural south-east.
At the same time, there are ongoing financial disputes within the family over control of the Mandela trust.