Presidential police presence at Milpark

2011-01-27 17:41

A presidential police unit, four police vans and one larger van carrying about 15 police arrived at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, where former president Nelson Mandela was being treated.

The vehicles drove into the main entrance between around 7pm.

Businessman Richard Maponya arrived at the same time.

His visit came amid a news blackout from the Nelson Mandela Foundation on the health of the former president who was admitted to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on Wednesday for “routine checks”.

By 6.30pm, there had been no update from the Foundation for over 26 hours, while the presidency said Mandela was “comfortable”.

No one had been seen entering or leaving a specially barricaded back entrance to the hospital which had been used by family and officials late this afternoon.

Security inside the hospital was tightened as guards verified the names of patients that visitors were there to see and cleared bystanders.

Scores of journalists were gathered outside the hospital and at Mandela’s home in Houghton, north of Johannesburg, awaiting news on the condition of the 92-year-old.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation issued a brief statement just after 4pm yesterday reading: “We can confirm that Mr Mandela is at Milpark Hospital undergoing routine tests. He is in no danger and is in good spirits.”

Earlier, President Jacob Zuma wished Mandela well and said he was “comfortable” and being “well looked after”.

“President Mandela is comfortable and is well looked after by a good team of medical specialists,” the presidency said in a statement.

“We urge the media to afford him the dignity and respect that he is entitled to as the country’s founding democratic president, as a national hero and also as a citizen of the republic.

“The doctors also need to be allowed to do their work without undue pressure.”

Zuma was being kept abreast of developments while attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, whose department was responsible for the health care of current and former presidents, was keeping Zuma up to date.

Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel arrived at the hospital at 3pm.

Family members and politicians were earlier seen coming and going.

Mandela’s former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela wiped her face and blew her nose as she left the hospital around 1.30pm. She was accompanied by Mandela’s eldest grandson, chief Mandla Mandela and other family members.

Anti-apartheid activist Albertina Sisulu, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, Mandela’s personal assistant Zelda la Grange, and the daughter of Mandela’s wife Graca Machel, and senior military officials visited.

The Star reported Mandela was airlifted from Cape Town to Milpark hospital by military aircraft after he developed a persistent cough. The hospital was not planning to comment on Mandela’s condition.

The Freedom Front Plus called for more information to prevent uncertainty and rumours.

“Because Mr Mandela is internationally a well-known figure, we would like to request that as much information as is possible is continually made known about the state of his health,” said MP Pieter Mulder in a statement.

“It is the only way in which uncertainties and rumours about Mr Mandela can be prevented.”

The party wished him a speedy recovery.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille also wished Mandela well.

“On behalf of the Democratic Alliance, I wish Madiba a speedy and healthy discharge from hospital. Our thoughts are with him and his loved ones. We must respond to the current situation with the dignity and calm that he would expect,” she said in a statement.

‘What more do you want?’
Meanwhile, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu asked journalists in Bloemfontein today what more the country wanted from Mandela.

“What more do we want from him? We want him to remain forever, but you know ... anything can happen,” Tutu said at the opening of the International Institute for Studies in Race, Reconciliation and Justice at the University of Free State.

Tutu confirmed he saw Mandela last week, and remarked that for a 92-year-old he was “amazing”.

Mandela had done a fantastic job and the country should thank God for him, said Tutu.

Meanwhile, police cordoned off the entrance to Mandela’s house in Houghton where United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa was seen leaving.

“The presidential protection unit has cordoned off a small section in front of his house,” Colonel Vish Naidoo told Sapa.

He said this was being done as a precaution in case people wanted to visit Mandela’s home to pay homage.

Security guards outside the house said a convoy of at least 20 vehicles had arrived at the house earlier.

The Star reported today that Mandela was seen by Professor Michael Plit, a specialist pulmonologist (who deals with diseases of the respiratory system).

“He has been admitted for investigation,” Plit was quoted as saying.

He would not say what Mandela’s condition was or if he had examined him, except to say he had seen him yesterday.

On the National Asthma Education Programme website, Plit describes his medical interests as obstructive lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu issued a statement calling for the media to stop speculating about Mandela’s health and allow the family privacy.

The ANC Youth League sent its best wishes.

“Nelson Mandela remains our greatest inspiration in everything we do and we are confident that he will stay strong,” a league statement read.

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