Former South African president Nelson Mandela’s doctors advised his family to turn off the ailing icon’s life-support machines last week, a court document has shown, prompting South Africa’s government to say yesterday he was not “in a vegetative state.”
A June 26 court filing obtained by AFP described Mandela’s “perilous” health and appears to show for the first time just how close the critically ill 94-year-old came to death.
“He is in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life support machine,” lawyers said on behalf of 15 Mandela family members.
“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,” they added.
The filing pressed a South African court to urgently resolve a bitter family feud over where the remains of three of Mandela’s children should be buried.
On the day the document was drafted, South African President Jacob Zuma abruptly canceled a trip to Mozambique to confer with Mandela’s doctors amid fears the he may be close to the end.
Zuma, Mandela family members and his close friends have since reported his condition has improved.
South African presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said yesterday that Zuma’s office “had not been party” to the material and would not speculate on its content.
“We did not file any document and we are not saying that it’s true or not true,” he said.
Maharaj said that doctors had since said Mandela is not currently “in a vegetative state,” but the spokesman refused to comment on Mandela’s previous condition.
Mandela’s grandson has meanwhile thrust the increasingly acerbic family feud over the gravesites firmly into the public eye.
Mandla Mandela launched a tirade at close family members who took him to court to force him to reinter Nelson Mandela’s children at the revered former South African leader’s proposed burial ground in Qunu, his childhood village.
Mandla, who had moved the graves from Qunu to his own nearby homestead in Mvezo two years ago without the family’s permission, accused one of his brothers of impregnating his wife and said others were born out of wedlock.
South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu pleaded with Mandela’s family not to “besmirch” the former president’s name.
“Please, please, please may we think not only of ourselves. It’s like spitting in Madiba’s face,” Tutu said in a statement, using Mandela’s clan name.