President Jacob Zuma and high-ranking members of the ANC had visited Mandela at his Houghton home earlier in the day, accompanied by the SABC, who released "exclusive" footage of the visit.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu had released a statement shortly after the visit, saying that "officials are satisfied that president Mandela is in good health and is receiving the very best medical care".
President Jacob Zuma said he found Mandela "in good shape and in good spirits", adding that "...as you can see him, that he's really up and about and stabilised".
But the "exclusive" footage painted a much more worrisome picture, showing him with a vacant look on his face, and appearing to utter very few words.
As reported by AP, 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 ANC officials, 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.
Outrage on social media platform Twitter grew swiftly, with condemnation directed at Zuma, the ANC, and the SABC.
A Twitter user questioned Zuma's and the ANC's assertions that Mandela was fine, despite what the footage showed:
Gilmar Walsh tweeted: Yoh! Zuma think he is on radio, we got footage of Mandela, this man saying Mandela is well.. Yoh yoh yoh!! Mandela is at 6's and 7's...
Another said: Wonder what Mandela will look like if ANC says he is in bad shape, if this is his Good shape.
Said DJ Shawny B: So so sad. Our icon is slowly fading away with age and the government tries to cover up Madiba's frail condition.
The SABC took flak, in light of previous calls for media to respect Mandela's privacy.
Matshidiso Madia tweeted: Looks wrong to make him pose for a photo" *sooo wrong! Looks like an empty shell. I don't understand.
Said Tsholofelo K: Mandela is 94 and frail. Can the media give him some privacy. Can the man be sick in peace?"
Another was quite blunt: SABC are so dumb for posting that video of Mandela. This is just shocking.
DA Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko was to the point: SABC should be utterly ashamed of themselves tonight.
Others took issue with what they perceived to be an invasion of Mandela's privacy by the ANC:
Brent Lindeque: After everything Madiba has done for us this is how they treat him. Like an animal at the zoo. Shame on the ANC.
Another said: It must take a politician do stuff like that, because no normal human being would do anything like that to an old man!
Said Alex Eliseev: No one should ever have their home invaded by politicians. Ever.
Madiba looked more like a prop in that photo op with the ANC bigwigs. Made me feel uneasy, Tweeted Iman Rappetti.
Other Twitter users were just shocked at what they saw:
Said Tumi Modiroa: This footage of Mandela is heartbreaking.
Despina Zoras said: Scariest thing seeing Mandela on the news tonight. He looked hollow.
While Noko Moloto said: After seeing a rare footage of President #Mandela I became really worried about him...
Another user said: Those eyes, that isn't life... #Mandela thank you tata for your life.
Christine Qunta was quite emphatic: We can't repeat this enough, he has served us as humanity nowits time for Pres. Mandela to rest. Leave him ALONE PLEASE!!!