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Mandela not unconscious - friend

05 July 2013, 13:00

Johannesburg - Anti-apartheid activist Denis Goldberg has confirmed that former South African president Nelson Mandela is not in a vegetative state, as claimed in recent court papers.

"He is clearly a very ill man, but he was conscious and he tried to move his mouth and eyes when I talked to him," Denis Goldberg, one of the men who was convicted with Mandela, told AFP.

"He is definitely not unconscious," Goldberg said, adding that "he was aware of who I was".

Goldberg said he was asked by Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, to pay him a visit "just to give him mental stimulation".

Court papers

This came after the government denied on Thursday that Mandela, 94, was in a permanent vegetative state, as outlined in court documents filed on 26 June.

"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," said the statement.

"The doctors deny that the former president is in a vegetative state," the presidency said.

Court documents obtained by AFP showed that doctors treating Mandela said he was in a "permanent vegetative state" and advised his family to turn off his life support machine a week ago.

"He is in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life support machine," lawyers said on behalf of 15 family members including his wife and three daughters.

"The Mandela family have been advised by the medical practitioners that his life support machine should be switched off.

"Rather than prolonging his suffering, the Mandela family is exploring this option as a very real probability."

Burial dispute

According to family lawyer Wesley Hayes, the document was part of an effort to have a court urgently hear a dispute over the final resting place of three of Mandela's children, who were reburied amid a fierce family dispute on Thursday.

Since the document was filed, the government, family members and Mandela's close friends have reported an improvement in his condition.

On the day the court document was written, President Zuma reported that Mandela's health had faltered and he cancelled a trip to Mozambique.

The next day the president said his condition had "improved during the course of the night".

A spokesperson for Machel declined to comment on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Machel said that while occasionally Mandela has been uncomfortable during his nearly one month hospital stay, he has seldom been in pain.

"Now we are about 25 days we have been in hospital," Machel said, giving thanks for the outpouring of well wishes from around the world for the Nobel peace laureate.

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

The former president, who turns 95 later this month, was rushed to hospital on 8 June with a recurring lung infection.



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