Doctors tell Mandelas to switch off his life-support
Nelson Mandela is in a "permanent vegetative state" and his family have been advised by doctors to switch off his life-support machine, court papers have alleged.
Medics treating the former South African president, who is entering his fourth week in hospital, have said the family should consider letting him go rather than "prolonging his suffering".
The alleged diagnosis is contained in a document submitted last week by Mr Mandela's oldest daughter, Makaziwe, during a court battle with another family faction. It was obtained by the AFP news agency and dated June 26.
"He is in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life-support machine," the document says.
"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."
The claims were in stark contrast to the words of Mr Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, who spoke publicly for the first time about her 94-year-old husband yesterday and insisted he was "fine" and not in too much pain.
Referring to Mr Mandela by his clan name, she said: "Madiba is sometimes uncomfortable. Sometimes he is in pain. But he is fine."
President Jacob Zuma, who visited Mr Mandela in hospital yesterday, added in a fresh statement that he remained "critical but stable" as he receives treatment for a recurring lung infection. He is said to have been placed on a ventilator to assist his breathing.
The latest claims about Mr Mandela's health emerged in a statement entitled 'Certificate of Urgency' submitted to a high court close to the former president's childhood home in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape.
The court has been hearing arguments in a legal dispute over where several of Mr Mandela's children should be buried – a matter at the centre of a bitter family feud.
On Wednesday, the court ruled that the remains of three of the former statesman's children should be immediately exhumed and reburied in a hillside plot close to where Mr Mandela is expected to be buried when he dies.
Makaziwe Mandela, backed by Ms Machel and most of the large Mandela family, took his oldest grandson, Mandla Mandela, to court after he dug up the bodies from Qunu two years ago and moved them to the nearby village of Mvezo, where he is a traditional chief and has built a visitor centre.
Yesterday, having disinterred the remains from their graves in Mvezo and had them sent for forensic tests, Mr Mandela's family are thought to have reburied them in the grounds of his Qunu home.
According to the court papers, Makaziwe accused Mandla (39) of seeing "monetary gain" by moving the bodies in anticipation of the tourists who would want to visit Mr Mandela's grave. He was also accused of being illegitimate, and therefore not entitled to the chieftaincy he now holds.
The escalating feud between the wider Mandela family has transfixed and appalled South Africa in equal measure, and yesterday descended into soap opera farce.
Yesterday, Mandla Mandela called a press conference in which he accused Makaziwe of seeking to "sow divisions and destruction in the family".
He said he did not "want to hang out our dirty linen in public", then proceeded to accuse one of his brothers who has taken Makaziwe's side of being "illegitimate" and the other of "impregnanting" his now ex-wife Anais Grimaud.
"It seems like anyone can come and claim to be a Mandela and jump on the bandwagon," he told the press conference, adding that since he had been nominated to take over the family chieftaincy by Nelson Mandela, he was most entitled to make decisions for the family.
Mbuso Mandela said he had "nothing" to say about Mandla's adultery claim. "Hopefully, we will all be reconciled one day, but if it doesn't happen, such is life," he said. "I am just focusing on the old man."
Phathekile Holomisa, the president of the Congress of Traditional Leaders in South Africa, told the country's eNCA news TV station that the prolonged row was destroying the Mandela name.
"They are embarrassing themselves, they are embarrassing all the people who believe in what Mandela stands for," he said. "They must sit down as a family and discuss this among themselves." (© Daily Telegraph, London)