Nelson Mandela doctors deny he is in 'vegetative state'

By GABRIELLE LEVY,  |  Updated July 5, 2013 at 2:11 PM
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Doctors treating Nelson Mandela denied a report the former South African president was in a "permanent vegetative state" after a legal document leaked to the press describing the elderly statesman's health status as dire.

"We confirm our earlier statement released this afternoon after President Jacob Zuma visited Madiba in hospital that Madiba remains in a critical, but stable condition," Zuma's office said in a "clarification" Thursday night. "The doctors deny that the former President is in a vegetative state."

The leaked documents claimed Mandela's health had essentially failed and that doctors recommended he be taken off life support rather than "prolonging his suffering."

The "Certificate of Urgency" was submitted to a court near Mandela's childhood home in Qunu, where Mandela's oldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, and grandson Mandla Mandela are battling over the burial of several of the former president's late children. On Wednesday, a court ruled the remains of three of his children were to be exhumed and buried in a plot close to where Mandela will be buried when he dies.

Makaziwe Mandela, backed by the ailing leader's wife Graca Machel and most of the family, took Mandla Mandela to court after he dug up the bodies of three family members from where they were buried in Qunu two years ago, and reburied them in Mvezo, where he is chief.

Machel spoke publicly for the first time since Mandela was admitted to a Pretoria hospital four weeks ago, vehemently denying the document's assessment.

"Although Madiba sometimes may be uncomfortable, very few times he is in pain, but he is fine," she said.

Zuma and Mandela's ally Archbishop Desmond Tutu begged the family to put aside their differences so not as to "besmirch" his name.

"Please, please, please may we think not only of ourselves. It's almost like spitting in Madiba's face," Tutu said in a statement.

"Your anguish, now, is the nation's anguish -- and the world's," Tutu said. "We want to embrace you, to support you, to shine our love for Madiba through you. Please may we not besmirch his name."

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