Media scrambling to get word on Mandela
The whereabouts of anti-apartheid hero and South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela, currently receiving treatment for a lung infection, have puzzled journalists who are scrambling to get first-hand information about his condition, a media report said Friday.
Since Mandela was hospitalised Dec 8, crowds of journalists have camped outside the 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria, where Mandela is believed to be treated for his illness.
But the presidency has hinted that Mandela was not treated at that hospital, Xinhua reported.
This prompted journalists to change camping sites. This time they targeted the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria. Since early Friday, journalists have been streaming to open grounds outside the hospital to set up their camps.
The Beeld newspaper said Mandela was admitted under a pseudonym.
It said security at the hospital was tight and that a number of black cars, identical to those used by the police's VIP unit, could be seen on the hospitals grounds.
The paper also said Mandela's wife Graca Machel, President Jacob Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki visited the hospital recently.
There are also rumours that Mandela has been discharged from the hospital.
The government has been under fire for misleading the media about where Mandela was being treated.
In response to such criticism, the presidency said Thursday the government had never identified the hospital where Mandela was staying.
"We have noted media speculation about the hospital at which former president Mandela may be receiving medical attention," the presidency said in a statement.
Mandela "is being treated at a Pretoria hospital as said from the first statement we issued. We have refrained from disclosing the hospital in order to ensure privacy and also to allow doctors space to do their work of caring for Madiba without interruptions or undue pressure," it said.
"While we understand the interest in the story, we urge the media to respect the former president's privacy."
Mandela's hospital stay this time is his longest since 2001, when he underwent seven weeks of radiotherapy after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
In January 2011, Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for an acute respiratory infection. In February this year, he spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint.
Mandela, who turned 94 July 18 this year, was imprisoned for 27 years during the apartheid. He was elected the country's first black president in 1994.