Footage belies Mandela assurances

2013-04-29 19:16
(Picture: YouTube/SABC)

(Picture: YouTube/SABC)

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Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma said he found Nelson Mandela "in good shape and in good spirits" Monday but a video of his encounter with the ailing former president belies those cheery words, showing him with a vacant look on his face.

It's been more than three weeks since Mandela was released after a 10-day stay in the hospital, the third time in five months that he spent time in hospital for a recurring lung infection.

"We saw him, he's looking very good, he's in good shape," Zuma told the SABC on the doorstep of Mandela's Johannesburg home.

"We had some conversation with him, shook hands, he smiled, as you can see him, that he's really up and about and stabilised.

"We're really very happy, we think that he's fine," Zuma said.

"The doctors are happy and we are happy. The [medical] report corresponds with his own appearance, as you saw."

But the SABC video shows Mandela in an armchair, his head propped up by a pillow, his legs on a footrest and covered by a blanket, looking grey-skinned and unsmiling with his cheeks showing what appear to be marks from a recently removed oxygen mask.

Zuma jokes and laughs with two officials of the ANC, some Mandela family members and the former president's medical team while Mandela stares straight ahead, unresponsive.

Zuma tries to hold Mandela's hand but, given his lack of response, ends up covering it with his own.

"Smile, smile," Mandela is urged as one of his grandsons grabs a cellphone to take a picture.

Mandela attempts a weak smile but, as the flash goes off, he closes his eyes and purses his lips.

Mandela is known to dislike camera flashes, as his eyes are sensitive after years of working in the glare of a limestone quarry when he was imprisoned on Robben Island.

Mandela does not appear to speak during the televised portion of the visit, except for an "Oh", that could have been a gasp for breath and one word to his medical doctor.

Monday's video likely will cause more concern for the many South Africans who revere Mandela as the founder of a free South Africa and who were buoyed by the aging icon's release from hospital and family statements that he is doing as well as can be expected, for a 94-year-old.

Mandela's 95th birthday is in July.

Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  nelson mandela

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