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.

  • HowardX - 2011-01-31 19:51

    What a lot of silly petty finger pointing and bickering. How hard would it have been for someone, anyone, to just make a simple statement that Mandela had developed a respiratory condition and was being treated for a collapsed lung, however, was not in immediate danger? Instead they created a two day information vacuum for two days feeding an international media frenzy. The truth is, nobody did a very good PR job and it would be really nice if, for once, the relevant people would take responsibility.

  • April - 2011-01-31 19:54

    Mandela is a public figure, but he is not public property, they were just trying to protect him when things were still up in the air and uncertain. Get off your high horses!

  • Skottie - 2011-01-31 20:37

    You said I said but the truth of the matter is every-one has contributed to the mess. The foundation did not had to get permission for a media conference to be held and dont tell me they did not know what was happeing in the media. As always, blame and shift blame is there game and nobody to take ouwnership.

  • tdk25 - 2011-01-31 20:42

    WTF??? stop it now please....this is silly...

  • briansmith702 - 2011-01-31 20:48

    What is new. The ANC cannot tell the truth. It is ingrained in them to lie.

      Tonakgolo - 2011-01-31 21:01

      wena wa gafa you need help!!...u r lost.

  • Olavin - 2011-01-31 21:14

    All I get from this article is a whole lot of childish finger pointing. Tying to substitute they're actions from "lying" to "naive" is another way of saying, we messed up, but it wasn't our fault, /fingerpoint. Grow a pair.

  • daaivark - 2011-02-01 08:33

    Bunch of opportunistic babies. The whole lot. The foundation, the party, the ex-wife. Sis.

      twolips - 2011-02-01 12:47

      I'm with you there, DV!

  • Chilliginger - 2011-02-01 10:18

    This was handled bandly END OF STORY, we don't care whose fault it is!! Basic Communication 101 Never withold information IF the lack of information will lead to panic and further speculation!! Nelson Mandela does not belong to the foundation, he belongs to the nation dammit.

  • onmyway - 2011-02-01 14:46

    I have had this theory for a number of years now. Hear me out. When last did anybody see Mandela apear on a live broadcast, or at any other dignitary event to either make a speach or to receive something? He doesnt pitch up for his birthday etc. Maybe he has passed on years ago, but it is a political coverup to keep it quiet. Maybe, like the saying goes "ignorance is bliss!"

  • onmyway - 2011-02-01 14:59

    I have had this theory for a number of years now. Hear me out. When last did anybody see Mandela apear on a live broadcast, or at any other dignitary event to either make a speach or to receive something? He doesnt pitch up for his birthday etc. Maybe he has passed on years ago, but it is a political coverup to keep it quiet. Maybe, like the saying goes "ignorance is bliss!"

      DeonL - 2011-02-01 16:41

      He was at the world cup opening / closing last year, but most of us missed it as it happened during an add break on TV.

  • DeonL - 2011-02-01 16:39

    It felt like a practice run for the new proposed Media Law.

  • devils_advo - 2011-02-03 15:40

    one of his bodyguards revealed he had a collapsed lung. this was leaked.

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