JOHANNESBURG: Doctors treating Nelson Mandela said he was in a “permanent vegetative state” and advised his family to turn off his life support machine, according to court documents dated June 26, obtained by AFP Thursday.
“He is in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life support machine,” said a legal filing related to a family dispute over reburying the remains of three of Mandela’s children.
“The Mandela family have been advised by the medical practitioners that his life support machine should be switched off.
“Rather than prolonging his suffering, the Mandela family is exploring this option as a very real probability.”
The “Certificate of Urgency” document was obtained from a lawyer representing Mandela family members who had successfully sought a court order to return the disputed children’s remains to the revered South African leader’s childhood home, after a grandson had them moved to his own village.
The document was presented to South Africa’s Eastern Cape High Court as President Jacob Zuma reported that Mandela’s health had faltered and cancelled a trip to Mozambique.
The next day Zuma reported that Mandela’s condition had “improved during the course of the night”.
“He is much better today than he was when I saw him last night. The medical team continues to do a sterling job,” Zuma said in a statement dated June 27.
Since then the government has said Mandela’s condition remains “critical but stable”, but has provided few details, citing patient confidentiality.
Lawyers for Mandela’s relatives, family members themselves and government officials were not immediately available for comment.
Meanwhile, Mandela’s grandson thrust an increasingly acerbic family feud firmly into the public eye Thursday.
Mandla Mandela, forced by a court to return the remains of three of Mandela’s children to the revered South African leader’s proposed burial ground in Qunu, launched a tirade at close family members.
Mandla reacted furiously to the court order, accusing one of his brothers of impregnating his wife and others of being born out of wedlock.
He also accused other close relatives of money grabbing.
“In the past few days I have been the target of attacks from all sorts of individuals wanting a few minutes of fame and media attention at my expense,” Mandla said at a nationally televised press conference.
He accused Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe of trying to “sow divisions and destruction” in her family.
The anti-apartheid hero’s ex-wife Winnie, who has regularly visited him in hospital, “has no business in the matters of the Mandelas,” Mandla added.
He also lashed out at his own brother Ndaba for claiming he was born out of wedlock.
“I don’t want to hang out our dirty linen as a family in public but he knows very well that my father impregnated a married woman of which he is the result of that act.... As for the remaining of my two brothers we all know that they are not my father’s children.”
Mandla however said he would not fight a court order to move the remains of his father, uncle and aunt from his estate in Mvezo, the eastern village where he is overseeing large-scale development as the local traditional chief, back to nearby Qunu, Mandela’s nearby childhood home.
The three bodies were exhumed Wednesday after a sheriff forced open the gates of Mandla’s estate with a pickaxe to allow three hearses to enter the property.
The bodies were moved in 2011, allegedly without the family’s consent.
After forensic tests confirmed the identities of the remains, the hearses arrived in Qunu on Thursday where the reburial later began, according to police.
The issue has taken on added urgency, after court documents submitted by 15 family members said Mandela was in a “perilous” state “assisted in breathing by a life support machine.”
“The anticipation of his impending death is based on real and substantial grounds,” the affidavit read.
President Jacob Zuma, who visited his predecessor on Thursday, repeated the government’s now-standard line that Mandela “remains critical but stable” after nearly a month in hospital.
“We appreciate all the love and compassion. Madiba is receiving the best medical care from a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals who are at his bedside around the clock,” Zuma said, using Mandela’s clan name.
Zuma thanked the nation and the international community for their continued support.
Those thanks were echoed by Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, who said that occasionally Mandela has been uncomfortable during his hospital stay, but has seldom been in pain.
“Now we are about 25 days we have been in hospital,” Machel said, giving thanks for the outpouring of well wishes from around the world for the Nobel peace laureate.
“Although Madiba sometimes may be uncomfortable, very few times he is in pain,” she said.
The former president, who turns 95 later this month, was rushed to hospital on June 8 with a recurring lung infection.