Mandela illness 'exaggerated by family lawyer'
Published 08/07/2013 | 05:00
A LAWYER acting for the family of Nelson Mandela, inset, is facing disciplinary action for allegedly exaggerating the severity of the ailing statesman's ill-health to obtain a speedy hearing.
David Smith, who was acting for Mr Mandela's oldest daughter Makaziwe, his wife Graca Machel and ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, told the court that the 94-year-old was in a "permanent vegetative condition" and doctors had advised that his family think about switching off his life-support machine.
The claim was made in a closed court hearing on June 26, but leaked to the media late last week. The family have refused to comment on its veracity but Denis Goldberg, a family friend and fellow anti-apartheid activist, said last week that when he visited Mr Mandela, he opened his eyes and tried to speak to him.
He said Mrs Machel told him the doctors were advising "not even to think about" turning off his life-support, adding: "They think he has a very good chance of recovery."
The claim that Mr Mandela was close to death prompted a judge to order an immediate hearing into Makaziwe Mandela's case to have the bodies of three of the former president's children exhumed and moved to a grave he is expected to share with them in the grounds of his rural home in Qunu, the Eastern Cape.
Mrs Mandela won her case and the bodies were exhumed and reburied within days.
Mrs Mandela and other family members brought the court case against her nephew, Mandla Mandela, who moved the bodies to the nearby village of Mvezo two years ago.
Gary Jansen, a lawyer for Mandla Mandela, said his client was given no notice of the court hearing because of the request for urgency.
Today, he will file a complaint against Mr Smith. He is also considering bringing criminal charges against Makaziwe Mandela for perjury – on the grounds that she allowed "exaggerated" statements about her father's health to be made.
Gerald Bloem, chairman of the Eastern Cape Bar Council, said investigators could call Mandela family members to give evidence if a disciplinary hearing against their lawyer went ahead.
Mr Smith could be struck off if he was found to have lied to the court about Mr Mandela's health, he added.
Neither Mr Smith nor Makaziwe Mandela responded to requests for comment. (© Daily Telegraph, London)