Mandela in 'prison', says angry bodyguard

2013-06-15 16:04

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela is a very lonely man, one of his bodyguards told AFP on Saturday, accusing the ailing anti-apartheid icon's medical team of controlling visits like prison guards.

As the country and the rest of the world held its breath a week after the revered 94-year-old was admitted to hospital, Shaun van Heerden spoke out against the team run by army Surgeon General Vejay Ramlakan.

"At times it felt like he was back in prison," Van Heerden said.

The bodyguard said he was "given leave" by his employers over accusations he leaked the place where Mandela was being treated to the media.

Before he was checked in last week to receive treatment for a recurring lung infection, in what appeared to be the most serious in a string of recent health scares, Mandela was receiving medical care from his Johannesburg home.

Van Heerden charged the medical staff surrounding Mandela often curtailed the frail statesman's freedom by imposing unnecessarily tough restrictions on visits.

"Even before he was admitted few people were allowed to see him. Some of his old friends were denied access," he alleged.

Van Heerden also accused members of the medical team of being "starstruck" and overstepping their duties when around Madiba, often posing for pictures with him.

"I have witnessed cases where some of them shoved copies of his book, The Long Walk to Freedom, into his hands for him to sign."

"That is amazing, and I did not like it," he said.

Van Heerden who worked as Mandela's bodyguard for nearly 10 years described him as a "gentleman who seriously cares about those around him".

Security has been beefed up at the specialist private facility in Pretoria where Mandela was checked in on 8 June, with police searching vehicles and people going in.

Details about his exact condition have not been released, but officials say he is receiving "intensive care".

On Thursday President Jacob Zuma said Mandela's health "continues to improve" but his "condition remains serious", after visiting in hospital for the first time.

His eldest daughter, Zenani, who is South Africa's ambassador to Argentina, as well as his daughter Makaziwe and his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and current wife Graça Machel have visited him almost daily.

Van Heerden believes however that "Mandela is a very lonely man."

He said he would have loved to see some of his friends from the struggle days allowed access to him.

"When he was at home he should have been allowed visits from old friends, but they were not allowed," he said.

"Surely, measures can be put in place if they fear that people from the outside might bring infections."

Last week Zuma's spokesperson Mac Maharaj denied media reports that his family had issued an order limiting the flow of visitors at Mandela's bedside, including leaders of the ruling ANC.

Maharaj said authorities wanted "to create a conducive environment for his recovery".

It is Mandela's fourth hospital stay since December, leading to a growing acceptance that the much-loved father of the "Rainbow Nation" may be nearing the end of his life.

Read more on:    nelson mandela

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

Traffic Alerts
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.