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Conflicting reports on Mandela's health as he lays critically ill in hospital

The rainbow nation prays: South African children hold a vigil for Nelson Mandela at the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria  (Filippo Monteforte /AFP/Getty Images)

There are confusing and conflicting reports about the condition of former South African President Nelson Mandela. The anti-apartheid leader has been in hospital in Pretoria since June 8 with a lung infection and he is critically ill. As the world waits for news of Mandela's health here is a summary of what is being said and by whom: 

Mac Maharaj is the government presidential spokesman and the only official authorized to speak publicly on Mandela’s condition: 

“Over the past 48 hours the condition of former president Madiba has gone down,” he said late on Wednesday, using his affectionate tribe name, Reuters reported.  

On Wednesday, CNN, citing an unnamed official “briefed on his condition” reported that Mandela was on life support.

But Maharaj refused to comment at a press conference, citing patient-doctor confidentiality. “I’m not going into any detail by confirming or denying. And I’m not going to get into an argument with an unnamed source.” 

Maharaj speaks on behalf of South African President Jacob Zuma - who suggested hours later, on Thursday, that Mandela’s health was actually improving.

“He is much better today than he was when I saw him last night,” he said in a statement on his website. “The medical team continues to do a sterling job. We must pray for Tata’s health and wish him well.”

However, Mandela’s eldest daughter Dr. Makaziwe Mandela, an anthropologist, told the South African Broadcasting Corporation in an interview posted online Thursday morning that "it doesn't look good."  

“I’m not going to lie…I think for us as long as tata is still responding when we talk to him when we touch him I think that gives us hope.” She would not elaborate on his condition, angrily accused the foreign media of acting like “vultures.” 

Others have reported that Mandela is dead. The Australian government was deeply embarrassed when one of its ministers announced to guests at an official dinner that Mandela had died. Gary Gray, the resources minister apologized to the South African High Commissioner for the error, AP reported.  

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour 


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