Military doctors treated Madiba shockingly — Zelda

2014-06-19 00:00

FORMER president Nelson Mandela was booked into a private hospital in Johannesburg with bed sores after he had shockingly poor treatment from state doctors in Cape Town.

Madiba’s personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, makes this revelation in her book Good Morning, Mr Mandela, which goes on sale today.

The government had not said anything about the poor treatment in 2011, when Mandela was hospitalised for weeks in Cape Town after he became sick at his home in Qunu.

“I thought it would be the last time I greeted him. He did not stop coughing,” La Grange writes in her memoir, which has already elicited criticism from Cabinet ministers.

But Madiba’s daughter, Zindzi, said her father would have supported La Grange’s book.

In the book, La Grange also reveals:

• Madiba had a a candid conversation with the former Protea captain Hansie Cronjé after the cricketer admitted to match-fixing. Madiba told Cronjé: “Son, you had made a big mistake, but now you must be a man and face the consequences. This does not mean we won’t forgive you. You admitted your mistake, now you must move on.”

• Mandela was “very frustrated” by former president Thabo Mbeki’s Aids policy and several times tried to meet with Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, then the minister of health. When he eventually met her, Tshabalala-Msimang excused herself after half an hour because she had an appointment to fit a dress;

• Madiba met Charlize Theron after she won an Oscar in 2004. “We ordered koeksisters after Charlize had mentioned she would like to eat these in South Africa. Madiba offered her koeksisters and although she took one, she never ate it”; and

• During a visit to Mandela Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson asked the ageing statesman if he had ever had a lapdance.

But the revelation that will cause the biggest shockwaves is La Grange’s forensic exposé of the shocking medical treatment that Madiba was subjected to in his last years.

La Grange joined Madiba and his wife Graça Machel in Cape Town to celebrate the new year in 2010.

He was thin and uncomfortable. “Mrs Machel was also worried, but it became clear that the medical personnel were told by Madiba’s family members what to do and their priorities differed from that of Mrs Machel with regards to Madiba’s health. The Cape Town medical team who acted independently were worried and stressed.”

Mandela was secretly admitted to 2 Military Hospital. He was too weak to fly to Johannesburg.

A specialist checked Madiba’s knee, which gave him a lot of pain. “He looked shocked when he came out of the room. He said he would stay in touch, but that he was concerned that there were other underlying problems that had caused the deterioration which we could see in Madiba over the past weeks.”

A name frequently mentioned in the book is that of Brigadier-General Zola Dabula, Mandela’s military doctor. A doctor in Cape Town expressed his shock to Dabula about the general medical treatment given to Madiba.

Dabula said he was more worried that Mandela was “homesick”.

La Grange put him in his place.

“Anyone who spent enough time with him knew when he was in Johannesburg, he wanted to be in Qunu and when he was in Qunu, he wanted to be in Johannesburg. When he was in Cape Town he wanted to be in either Qunu or Johannesburg. That is just how old people are.”

Many of Mandela’s family members told La Grange to stay out of Madiba’s personal life.

During his hospitalisation in Cape Town, Madiba had Zelda summoned. “Madiba was livid with me. ‘Zeldina, you of all people had deserted me and left me here’,” he said.

Even the former minister of defence Lindiwe Sisulu stepped in and offered to replace Madiba’s entire medical team.

On one occasion, Mandela’s doctor was not with him as she had to finish some shopping.

When Madiba’s condition deteriorated further, one of his specialists was dismissed. Machel felt she was “powerless and was being undermined”.

A few days later, Mandela was flown to Johannesburg and booked into the Milpark hospital, where the world’s media started camping on the sidewalk in an international vigil.

“He had pneumonia, or infection of his airways as they described it, as well as bed sores and inflammation in the knee. The combination of these things was toxic to his body.”

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