Blue-light convoy leaves Pretoria hospital

2012-12-14 14:09

A convoy of three vehicles with police lights and sirens entered the Mediclinic Heart Hospital, in Arcadia, around midday today, where it was believed former president Nelson Mandela was being treated.

Hospital security barred journalists from following the cars into the premises. The three vehicles then exited along with a military ambulance with yellow registration plates.

Reporters at the scene were speculating that Madiba may have been discharged.

Journalists had camped outside the hospital earlier in their attempts to find out where Mandela was being treated.

Among the media there was the Eyewitness News (EWN) team, which reported: “The name of the hospital is known by Eyewitness News, but this is not being released to respect Madiba’s dignity.”

EWN reported yesterday that Mandela (94) was not receiving treatment at 1 Military Hospital, as was thought to be the case.

The presidency said it had not been the government’s intention to mislead the public or the media. Its spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, said he had only stated Mandela had been admitted to a Pretoria hospital.

“It is not part of any strategy or tactic by government to mislead the public. We have never had that intention. We know to keep to the facts and we’ve been rigorous,” he said in an interview on Talk Radio 702.

However, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula gave an apparent confirmation that he was at 1 Military Hospital in an interview outside the hospital on Monday, after seemingly visiting Mandela there.

Today, reporters from EWN, eNews Channel Africa and The Associated Press stationed their cars along Celliers Street, overlooking the entrance to the Mediclinic.

Afrikaans daily, Beeld, was reporting that Mandela had been admitted under a pseudonym, which was known to the newspaper.

It reported that security at the hospital was tight and that a number of black bakkies and cars, identical to those used by the police’s VIP unit, could be seen on its grounds.

What appeared to be an emergency medical vehicle, with military registration plates, was parked in the hospital manager’s parking bay.

A number of men wearing electronic ear-pieces, and who were thought to be members of the VIP protection unit, had been seen moving around the hospital grounds and inside the building.

According to Beeld, Mapisa-Nqakula and senior SA National Defence Force officers had visited the hospital.

The newspaper reported that Surgeon-General, Lieutenant General Veejay Ramlakan, was there on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, President Jacob Zuma and former president Thabo Mbeki had also visited the hospital.

The Mediclinic Heart Hospital is next to Maupa Naga Police Station.

According to its website, the hospital takes pride in being “the first and still the only hospital of its kind – a private, specialised heart hospital in South Africa”.

A large contingent of local and international journalists had camped outside the 1 Military hospital since learning of Mandela’s apparent admittance to the hospital on Saturday.

Mandela had been flown to Pretoria from his home in Qunu, in Eastern Cape.

The presidency said he was suffering from the recurrence of a previous lung infection and was responding to treatment.

Mandela’s hospital stay is his longest continuous period in hospital since 2001, when he underwent seven weeks of radiotherapy after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was 83 at the time.

In January last year, Mandela was admitted to a Joburg hospital for an acute respiratory infection. He had contracted Tuberculosis while in prison.

Mandela was a leader of the struggle against racist white rule in South Africa, and preached reconciliation when he emerged from prison in 1990, after 27 years behind bars. He served one five-year term as president.

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