PRETORIA — Former South African President Nelson Mandela is still clinging to life, his eldest daughter Makaziwe said today, but she blasted foreign media “vultures” for violating his privacy as he lay critically ill in hospital.
Makaziwe’s outburst came after the government reported another downturn in the condition of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero, who is admired across the world as a symbol of resistance against injustice and of reconciliation.
A deterioration in Mandela’s status after 20 days of treatment for a lung infection forced South African President Jacob Zuma to cancel his participation in a regional summit in neighboring Mozambique today.
“I won’t lie, it doesn’t look good. But as I say, if we speak to him, he responds and tries to open his eyes. He’s still there. He might be waning off, but he’s still there,” Makaziwe told state broadcaster SABC after visiting her father at the hospital in Pretoria where he is being treated.
Accompanied by a group of grandchildren, she angrily criticised the “bad taste” of foreign media she said were intruding on the privacy of Mandela and his family at this difficult time.
“There’s sort of a racist element with many of the foreign media, where they just cross boundaries,” she said, after running the gauntlet of the pack of camera crews and reporters gathered outside the hospital.
“It’s truly like vultures waiting when the lion has devoured the buffalo, waiting there for the last of the carcass. That’s the image we have as a family,” Makaziwe added.
Her criticism followed several sharp rebukes from Zuma’s spokesman against some foreign media reports that have given alarming details of Mandela’s deteriorating condition.
Spokesman Mac Maharaj declined to comment on the latest report by a major US television news network that South Africa’s first black president was on life support. He said this was part of Mandela’s confidential relationship with his doctors.
Daughter Makaziwe said: “If people say they really care about Nelson Mandela, then they should respect that. They should respect that there is a part of him that has to be respected.”
She compared the massive media attention on Mandela, who has been in and out of hospital in the last few months with a recurring lung infection, with the coverage of the death in April of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. (Reuters)