Bless you, Julius Malema

Julius Malema has been admitted to hospital with flu-like symptoms. Susan Erasmus trusts it's nothing trivial. And that, according to the ANCYL makes her "unethical, immoral and despicable". Oh well.

Don't get me wrong – I don't wish any serious illness on anyone. Flu can be very serious, with very unpleasant symptoms such as the following:

  • High fever (often reaching >39 degrees Celsius) with chills. The fever is highest in children and least marked in the elderly
  • Dry cough
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches & pains (the "I've been run over by a bus" feeling)
  • Malaise (a general feeling of being unwell)
  • Fatigue (wanting to sleep all day)
  • Nasal congestion (maybe)
  • Sore throat (maybe)

We've all been there, except very few of us have managed to be hospitalised for these. Of course, when these symptoms result in secondary bacterial infections, things can become serious, but I suspect we do not have to start preparing obituaries for our ANCYL president. He looks hale and hearty to me and quite capable of fighting off a flu virus.

The spokesman for the ANCYL himself has reassured us that "the reasons for the hospitalisation are not major. He will be discharged soon."

I do not for one moment believe that this champion of the poor could possibly have orchestrated the hospital visit in order to prevent his disciplinary hearing. To think that would reveal a nasty level of cynicism in the same kind of league as denying a dying Schabir Shaik a last golf game, or two, or five.

I know exactly what will happen if I phone my medical scheme and try to get pre-authorisation for hospital admission because my nose is running and I have coughed twice in the last hour.

And then of course, the media was urged not to pry "into the privacy of the president's health as Malema's health was a private matter".

I do not think the health of public figures is private. Certainly not if it might be used to avoid appearing in a public hearing. Nothing could be more public and more deserving of prying.

So what are the rules about missing court appearances because of illness?

"There should only really be three reasons why someone cannot appear in court: if they are in the intensive care unit attached to machines; if they have a contagious disease; and/or if appearing in court would endanger their health seriously,” says Professor M.A. Simpson, Pretoria psychiatrist and Health24's CyberShrink. In all three cases, evidence should be provided.

A lesson can be learnt from the Egyptians, who have wheeled former President Hosni Mubarak into court on a stretcher inside a cage. He is answering charges on orchestrating the deaths of 800 protesters, among other things. He is apparently suffering from a heart condition and possible stomach cancer – a far cry from a scratchy throat. And he still made it to court.

So my feeling would be that our sprightly youth leader should make the effort. Drips, wheelchairs, stretchers and nursing assistance could be organised. It is a private hospital he is in, after all. I am pretty sure they can manage it.

Now wouldn't it make me look silly if he ended up in the Intensive Care Unit with bronchial pneumonia? I'll take the chance, notwithstanding. Sniff.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, October 2011)

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