Home News South African media wring hands over hospitalised Mandela

South African media wring hands over hospitalised Mandela

Published on 26/02/2012

South Africa's front pages carried concerned headlines Sunday but avoided stirring panic after Nelson Mandela spent the night in hospital for tests related to an abdominal complaint.

“Don’t panic,” urged the City Press in a banner headline.

“World holds its breath, but Madiba ‘fine and fully conscious,’ says President Jacob Zuma,” read the Sunday Times’ front page.

The media generally praised the government for handling the episode better than Mandela’s last hospitalisation, in January 2011, when the government and the Nelson Mandela Foundation kept media in the dark about his treatment for an acute respiratory infection.

“Communication on Mandela’s hospitalisation was considerably better than in January last year,” City Press said.

But The Sunday Independent criticised the secrecy around Mandela’s health as inconsistent with his legacy.

“Mandela, given his iconic stature and his humility as the servant of the people, insisted that the nation be informed about his condition” when he had cataract surgery in 1994 and was treated for prostate cancer in 2001, it said in an editorial.

“It is regrettable and inexplicable that our government and the presidency now insist that Mandela’s medical condition should be treated as private and confidential. Their attitude negates Mandela’s principles of openness.”

Mandela, 93, was hospitalised at an undisclosed medical facility Saturday for what Zuma’s office described as “a long-standing abdominal complaint”.

The news led swarms of journalists to form around Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, where Mandela was hospitalised last year, and at a military hospital in Pretoria.

The media were kept at a distance from both facilities, and a photographer outside the Pretoria hospital was forced to delete pictures he had taken of the building.

Zuma said Saturday evening that the anti-apartheid hero and Nobel Peace Prize-winner was doing well and was expected to be discharged Sunday or Monday.