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".
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."
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
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.