'Tough old man' Mandela has chance of recovery, says friend
Nelson Mandela is a "tough old man" and "has a very good chance of recovery", according to a close friend of South Africa's revered former statesman.
And yesterday the South African government denied reports that Mr Mandela was in a vegetative state.
The former ANC leader's lifetime friend Denis Goldberg said he had been invited to visit Mr Mandela in hospital on Monday by his wife Graca Machel, and found him "in far better shape" than had been suggested in reports.
"He's not getting worse and he's holding on," he told the BBC in an interview. "What a tough old man he is." A report on Thursday suggested that the 94-year-old former president, who has been in hospital for four weeks suffering from a lung infection, was in a "permanent vegetative state" and doctors had recommended his family switch off his life support machine.
Mr Goldberg said he had asked Mrs Machel about switching off the life support and been told: "The doctors say there's been no massive organ failure so they're not advising even to think about it at this stage. They think he has a very good chance of recovery," he said. "I hope. I hope."
Mr Goldberg said that Mr Mandela, with whom he was jailed for their anti-apartheid activities, looked "thin and pale" and was unable to speak because of the ventilator he was on.
He said that he was invited to go and see Mr Mandela at the Pretoria Heart Hospital along with other former Robben Island prisoners to see if it would "stimulate" him to get better.
He said that when he entered his room, he spoke to Mr Mandela and told him his name.
"Mandela immediately opened his eyes and looked at me and he saw me," he said. "He tried to speak but the pipe was in the way. So there was a bit of mumbling. He then closed his eyes and I kept on talking to him.""I'm disturbed that people are now saying he's in a vegetative state and he clearly wasn't when I saw him," he added in the BBC interview. (© Daily Telegraph London)