Nelson Mandela: Media vigil outside hospital

2011-01-27 00:22
Unidentified people exit from a cordoned off area outside the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg where former president Nelson Mandela is said to be undergoing "routine tests". (Denis Farrell, AP)

Unidentified people exit from a cordoned off area outside the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg where former president Nelson Mandela is said to be undergoing "routine tests". (Denis Farrell, AP)

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Johannesburg - Local and international news media gathered outside the entrance of the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg on Wednesday night as they waited for news about former president Nelson Mandela's health.

Journalists who were inside the hospital earlier were moved out by security guards. A number of journalists on the nearby Emmarentia bridge were also sent packing by metro police officers.

Mandela was admitted to Milpark Hospital on Wednesday afternoon for what were described as routine tests.

By the evening, a veil of silence was drawn over his condition.

Staff at Milpark Hospital declined to speak to journalists who descended on the premises for news on the elder statesman.

By 19:30, the only formal word on the condition of 92-year-old Mandela remained a short statement issued by the Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesperson Sello Hatang around 16:15.

Good spirits

It stated: "We can confirm that Mr Mandela is at Milpark Hospital undergoing routine tests. He is in no danger and is in good spirits."

Hatang did not answer his cellphone for follow-up questions.

Mandela's daughter Makaziwi from his first wife Evelyn said: "You got the statement? No further comment."

Members of the Mandela family were seen coming and going at the hospital by reporters.

A staffer from the French news agency AFP saw Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, leaving the hospital around 17:30, with four other family members departing shortly after.

Another report said she returned later in the evening.

Makeshift barrier

At a far corner of the hospital, a makeshift barrier of green mesh was erected. Inside the area were VIP cars, presumably belonging to family members.

As night fell, journalists, photographers and cameramen lined a nearby bridge outside the hospital that gave them a full view of the barricaded area.

Later in the evening, metro police told them to move off the bridge. Some then took up position in the hospital parking lot.

One of Mandela's grandsons was seen buying magazines and refreshments at the hospital eatery. Ndaba Mandela and his youngest brother were also seen near the barricaded area.

High alert

Mandela's long-time aide, Zelda la Grange, flanked by a bodyguard entered the barricaded area.

Hospital security remained on high alert.

By 22:30, the immediate vicinity of the hospital had grown quiet, including the area around the barricade.

Some journalists sat inside the hospital waiting area, blending with hospital visitors and patients. One journalist carrying a brown paper bag, was seen limping in an attempt to blend in with the ill.

A hospital nurse standing outside the main entrance was overheard saying: "I saw him being flown in (by helicopter) at 14:00."

Frail

Mandela's "routine tests" came a day after Archbishop Desmond Tutu told Sapa that Mandela was "frail".

"I saw him last week," Tutu said in Cape Town on Tuesday.

"He was all right, I mean he's 92, man, you know. And he's frail."

Twitter was abuzz on Wednesday evening with news of Mandela being admitted to hospital.

Tweets

Sandiso Ngubane, @Sandiso_N, tweeted: "My thing is; why would family members from Qunu come to check Madiba out during his "routine check-up"? Sometimes spin is just that... Spin!"

Other tweets speculating about Mandela's health included Siphojanuary who tweeted: " why would the family and high profile people be visiting #Madiba in hospital if he just went for a routine check-up???!"

RanjeniM tweeted "having dinner at Nelson Mandela Square cos only place I can feel close to him now. That statue is somehow comforting #Madiba".

"Hope Mr Nelson Mandela is okay n it really is a routine check up!! I'm really woRried **praying hard**," wrote another twitter user Purplemooky.

Twitter user Norwin tweeted: "#Madiba not in ICU; family and friends seen chatting and laughing. Hospital security stepped up".

"If something happens to Nelson Mandela tonight or in a day or so, do I close shop and let my staff off for the day? 80 employees nationwide?" user WarrenRSmith said.

Report

Earlier this month, a report circulated on the social network that the elder statesman had died.

It was condemned as malicious and insensitive by the African National Congress.

Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport said though the rumours were false, reliable sources had confirmed that Mandela's health had deteriorated.

In mid-January, a Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesman said Mandela was well and on holiday with his wife.

Zuma

President Jacob Zuma does not intend returning from the World Economic Forum in Davos in view of Mandela being admitted to hospital.

"The President is in Davos and will be there until January 28," presidential spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said.

"From there, he is flying to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to attend the African Union Summit. The programme has not changed."

- SAPA
Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  desmond tutu  |  jacob zuma  |  graca machel  |  johannesburg
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