South Africa’s president on Monday said a critically ill Nelson Mandela was “asleep” when he visited the 94-year-old at the hospital, and he urged the country to pray for Mandela, describing him as the “father of democracy” who made extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of his people.
President Jacob Zuma told dozens of foreign and South African journalists that doctors are doing everything possible to help the former president feel comfortable on his 17th day in a Pretoria hospital, but refused to give details of Mandela’s condition, saying: “I’m not a doctor.” The briefing came a day after the government said Mandela’s condition had deteriorated and was now critical.
Monday’s press gathering highlighted the tension between the government’s reluctance to share more information about Mandela on the basis of doctor-patient confidentiality, and media appeals for thorough updates on a figure of global interest. The government’s belated acknowledgement that an ambulance carrying Mandela to the hospital on June 8 broke down has fueled the debate about transparency versus the right to privacy.
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