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Mandela’s memory fading: close friend

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s frail anti-apartheid hero who spent a night in hospital at the weekend for a medical checkup, is doing well but has memory lapses, a close friend said on Monday.

Renowned South African human rights lawyer George Bizos, who defended Mandela during his 1960s treason trial, said that while the 94-year-old is aware of currents political events, he forgets at times that his fellow anti-apartheid activists are dead.

“Unfortunately he sometimes forgets that one or two of them had passed on and has a blank face when you tell him that Walter Sisulu and some others are no longer with us,” Bizos told Eyewitness News in an interview published on Monday.

Sisulu, the former leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) who was Mandela’s political mentor, died nearly a decade ago.

Bizos, who has been friends with Mandela since the 1940s, paid a visit to the Nobel Peace Prize winner at his Johannesburg home just over a week ago.

“I saw him about 10 days ago. He looked okay,” said Bizos.

Mandela was on Saturday admitted into hospital for “a scheduled medical check-up to manage the existing conditions in line with his age”, the South African presidency said.

The hospitalisation came less than three months after he was treated for a lung infection and gallstones.

Bizos represented Mandela and other leading anti-apartheid activists including Sisulu and Govan Mbeki, during the infamous 1960s Rivonia Trial that saw Mandela sentenced to life in prison.