Zelda la Grange reveals how Madiba suffered

2014-06-19 17:52

Former president Nelson Mandela had bedsores when he was admitted to a private hospital in Johannesburg after shocking treatment by state doctors in Cape Town.

Mandela’s personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, reveals this in her book, Good Morning, Mr Mandela, which is being officially launched tonight.

Mandela was hospitalised for several weeks in Cape Town in 2011 after he became ill at his home in Qunu, a fact that has been concealed by the government until now.

“I thought it was the last time I would greet him. He could not stop coughing,” La Grange says in her memoir, which has already been criticised by Cabinet members.

La Grange also says:

» Madiba had a frank conversation with former Proteas captain Hansie Cronje after the latter admitted to being guilty of match-fixing. He said to Cronje: “Son, you made a big mistake, but now you must be a man and face the consequences. This does not mean we will not forgive you. You have admitted your mistake, now you must move on.”

» Mandela was “very frustrated” over former President Thabo Mbeki Aids policies and tried several times in vain to meet then health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

When he eventually got to talk to her, Tshabalala-Msimang excused herself after half an hour because she had a dress-fitting appointment.

» Madiba had a reception for Charlize Theron after her 2004 Oscar award. “We ordered koeksisters after Charlize said she would like to eat them in South Africa. Madiba offered her koeksisters and though she took one, she never ate it.”

» During a visit to Mandela, Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson asked the elderly statesman if a stripper had ever sat on his lap.

But the revelations that will cause the worst shock waves are La Grange’s forensic description of the poor medical treatment Madiba received in his last years.

La Grange joined Madiba and his wife, Graça Machel, in Cape Town at the end of 2010 to celebrate New Year.

Mandela was thin and ill at ease.

Machel was worried, but it became clear that the medical personnel were being instructed by some of Madiba’s family members and their priorities differed from Machel’s as far as Madiba’s welfare was concerned.

The Cape doctors who acted independently were worried and tense.

Mandela was admitted to 2 Military Hospital amid great secrecy. He was too weak to fly back to Johannesburg.

A specialist inspected Madiba’s knee, which was causing him much pain.

“He looked shocked when he came out of the room. He was concerned that there were other underlying problems that could be the cause of the decline that we could see in Madiba over the past few weeks.”

A name that often crops up in the book is that of Brigadier-General Zola Dabula, Mandela’s military doctor.

A Cape Town doctor told Dabula he was shocked at the medical treatment that Madiba was receiving. Dabula apparently said he was concerned about Mandela’s homesickness.

La Grange replied by saying that anyone who had spent enough time with Mandela knew that 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 Qunu or Johannesburg. That is how old people are.

Many Mandela family members told La Grange to keep out of his personal life.

During his hospitalisation in Cape Town, Mandela sent for her. “Madiba was angry with me. Zeldina [his nickname for Zelda], you of all people have abandoned me and left me right here,” he said.

Even former defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu intervened and offered to replace his entire medical team.

One day, Mandela’s doctor was not with him because she had gone shopping.

After Mandela’s condition worsened, one of his specialists was dismissed. Machel felt she was powerless and was being undermined.

A few days later, Mandela was flown by ambulance plane to Johannesburg and admitted to the Milpark Hospital where the world’s media waited outside the hospital for days on end.

He had pneumonia, or infection of the air passages as they described it, along with bedsores and inflammation of the knee. The combination was toxic for his body.

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