Foundation speaks out on Mandela claims

2011-01-31 19:15
Johannesburg - The Nelson Mandela Foundation broke its silence over its handling of former president Nelson Mandela's hospitalisation on Monday by accusing Sunday Independent editor Makhudu Sefara of a "scurrilous" attack on its spokesperson.

The Foundation said it took exception to its spokesperson, Sello Hatang, being accused of misleading the nation and being called a liar.

It also said that after its initial statement, the SA National Defence Force was supposed to have taken over with the bulletins.

This followed media reports that there was a "turf war" over who was going to handle the information flow on Mandela's treatment for what was eventually revealed as an acute respiratory infection, from which he should recover.

As journalists scratched for information on the 92-year-old, Twitter and Facebook users and radio listeners pleaded for more information, with rumours that he was dead inevitably gathering momentum. It was only at a 12:30 news conference last Friday that information was provided.

The New Age editor Henry Jeffreys wrote on Monday of Friday's press conference: "On that day, at the time of the midday news conference, very few people in the world knew what the exact situation was regarding the revered former leader's health."

On Monday afternoon, the Foundation issued its statement, explaining that soon after Mandela arrived at the Milpark Hospital last Wednesday, his daughter Zindzi called CEO Achmat Dangor and urged them to issue a statement because she was being inundated with media queries.

Tests on her father had just begun and so it was not possible to provide further information.

"The words 'routine tests' were then agreed to. It was always understood that a more detailed medical bulletin would in due course be issued by the SANDF medical team which is responsible for Madiba´s health care," the statement read.

"But let us examine the use of that word 'routine' that Mr Sefara uses as the basis for his scurrilous attack on Mr Hatang."

The Foundation continued: "It was first used that day by Madiba himself when he met former president Thabo Mbeki at the Waterkloof airbase. Madiba informed Mr Mbeki that he was going to hospital for a 'routine check-up'. This can be confirmed by Mr Mbeki´s spokesperson."

They said even the Surgeon General Veejay Ramlakan used it at the press briefing on January 28 and family spokesperson Nkosi Zwelivelile "Mandla" Mandela "said as much".

No spin-doctoring conspiracy

So, the foundation "was therefore not the only one to use this seemingly contentious word".

The foundation said it was "hardly likely" that it was a "spin-doctoring conspiracy".

They just wanted to take pressure off the family and allay fears of his imminent death.

"Perhaps the foundation was naive in assuming that it would be self-evident, especially to experienced journalists, that more detailed medical bulletins would be issued, in due course, by his medical team."

They continued: "For Mr Sefara to accuse Sello Hatang of personally misleading the nation and of being a liar is a gross injustice, and indeed an abuse of Sefara´s privileged position."

The foundation also did not have a chance to respond because it was an op-ed item.

The foundation questioned where Sefara got the information that Mandela's lung had collapsed and that the surgeon-general had ordered that Mandela be especially flown to a Johannesburg Hospital.

"Has he asked the surgeon general to confirm this? Where does he get the information that Madiba had a collapsed lung? It is certainly not contained in the medical bulletin released by the surgeon general."

The foundation also wanted to know who in ANC and government had contradicted Hatang behind closed doors, as Sefara had written.

"Makhudu Sefara owes Sello Hatang an apology. Sefara should also sit quietly for a moment and reflect on whether his "shooting from the hip" approach contributes in any way to the lessons we can learn from the turmoil of the last few days."

The statement ended with Dangor expressing his "fullest confidence" in Hatang - "a person of great integrity who grapples each day with very complex issues".

Comment from Sefara was not immediately available.
Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  nelson mandela foundation

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Millions of plastic particles in our food!

Scientists and researchers believe that almost five million tons of plastic is dumped in the oceans every year and it’s affecting our food.



Plastic on your plate
Prince George the green prince?
Lean, green, drifiting machine
One man's $1 million vision for an eco Africa

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts

The Leo moon adds an element of drama and entertainment. A significant person that you may consult or confide in may play more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.