Speculation amid silence on Madiba’s health

By  | Jun 22, 2020, 01:48 PM  | Nelson Mandela  | Drama

Newspapers speculated on the health of former president Nelson Mandela on Monday morning, more than two days since the last update on his condition was made public.

"Mandela Lockdown", read The Star newspaper's front page headline, accompanied by a report on his family apparently banning government and senior African National Congress officials from visiting the anti-apartheid icon.

Without citing sources, The Star said it "understood" that the family had barred visitors.

It quoted "three highly placed government sources" who said Mandela's condition was "scary".

The Presidency issued a statement on Saturday morning, saying he was in a "serious but stable" condition after being admitted to a Pretoria hospital early on Saturday morning due to a recurring lung infection.

But since then, no official update has been available.

The Times newspaper reported on Monday morning that there had been no change in his condition.

"No news as world holds its breath," read the daily's headline.

Afrikaans newspaper Beeld, quoted ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu as saying nobody knew when "God would call Madiba".

The Sowetan's front page read: "Nation unites in prayer", quoting unnamed family members saying his condition had not changed and was "still serious".

Meanwhile, Wikipedia's page on Mandela was vandalised, and "updated", saying he died on June 9, but this was quickly fixed again.

At the weekend, a fake Twitter account using talk show host Piers Morgan's name, announced the "tragic news" that Mandela had died in his sleep. This was retweeted more than 1300 times. But it soon became clear in the Twitter-sphere that the tweet was a hoax.

Mandela has been in and out of hospital in the past few years. In April this year, he spent nine days in hospital receiving treatment for recurring lung problems.

In December last year, Mandela underwent an operation to remove gallstones and treat the recurring lung infection. He was discharged after an 18-day stay and placed under home-based high care at his Houghton home.

In January, the presidency said Mandela had made a full recovery from the surgery and continued to improve. In February last year he was admitted to hospital for a stomach ailment.

In January 2011, a virtual void of information marked Mandela's admission to Johannesburg specialist care Milpark Hospital. With very little information to go on at that time, speculation was rife and reports of his death started running on social networks.

Finally, on January 28, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Surgeon General Vejaynand Ramlakan addressed a media briefing on his health.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, which customarily managed publicity for the 94-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner, only broke its silence on Monday, January 31, 2011.

This was after then Sunday Independent editor Makhudu Sefara wrote an item called "The making of an unnecessary crisis".