, JOHANNESBURG,Jul 5 – The South African government denied that former president Nelson Mandela is in a permanent vegetative state, as outlined in court documents filed on June 26.
“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 using Mandela’s clan name.
“The doctors deny that the former president is in a vegetative state,” the statement added.
Court documents obtained earlier Thursday 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.
The June 26 court filing showed for the first time just how close the still critically ill 94-year-old came to death.
“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 Thursday.
Since the document was filed, the South African government, family members and Mandela’s close friends have reported an improvement in his condition.
“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 after visiting him on Monday.
“He is definitely not unconscious,” Goldberg said, adding that “he was aware of who I was”.
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 spokesman for Mandela’s wife Graca Machel declined to comment.