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South Africa Reveals Mandela Has Lung Infection, Responding to Treatment

The South Africa government has revealed that former President Nelson Mandela is suffering from a recurring lung infection.

Mandela, 94, has been treated at 1 Military Hospital near Pretoria, the nation’s capital, since Saturday. Though the interest in the story from international media is intense, the South African government had not released any information about his ailment until now..

“Madiba is receiving appropriate treatment and he is responding to the treatment,” presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

South African President Jacob Zuma thanked the public for its continuous support of Mandela and his family. Mandela was visited yesterday by Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

All vehicles that enter the hospital are first being screened by eight soldiers. The tight security surrounding his hospital stay is likely a reaction to what happened in January 2011, when he was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection. The hospital was swamped by media and by the curious and journalists were found wandering the halls and entering wards. After that, the South African military took charge of his care.

As for Mandela’s health in the past, he had tuberculosis during his years in prison and had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985. In 2001, Mandela underwent seven weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer, ultimately beating the disease. In February, Mandela spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint.

Mandela was born to lead—his great-grandfather was king of the Thembu people; his father was chief of the town of Mveso before the family was exiled to Qunu. As a leader of the radical ANC fighting against the viciously racist system of apartheid, Mandela first tried to use the methods of nonviolent resistance that Gandhi had employed in South Africa and later in India. When those failed to move the Afrikaner government, Mandela and his colleagues resorted to acts of sabotage—bombing and burning property, but never harming individuals. At his trial in 1964, he and his colleagues were charged with 193 acts of sabotage against the government

He was sentenced to life in prison on June 12, 1964, and sent to Robben Island. During his time there, his reputation grew—he was eventually thought of as the most significant black leader in South Africa. In fact, when he was moved in 1982 along with a few other senior ANC leaders like Walter Sisulu and Andrew Mlangeni from Robben to Pollsmoor Prison, many speculated that it was because he was having too great an influence on the next generation of black leaders at Robben, which many were calling “Mandela University.”

During this time, freeing Mandela and ending the brutal system of apartheid had become popular global causes, increased in importance and urgency through songs, massive protests and loud calls across the world for divestiture from companies that profited from business with South Africa.

South Africa President P.W. Botha offered Mandela his freedom in February 1985, but only on the condition that he “unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon.” Mandela refused, releasing a statement through his daughter Zindzi that said, “What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”

To most observers and activists inside and outside of South Africa, it was hard to envision an end to apartheid coming without massive violence and bloodshed. But that’s largely what happened—though there were pockets of violence and several ugly massacres of protesters. After Botha suffered a stroke, he was replaced by President Frederik Willem de Klerk, who announced Mandela’s release in February 1990. In 1991, Mandela was elected head of the ANC. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

Mandela served as President of South Africa from May 1994 until June 1999, stunning the world by skillfully transitioning the nation out of minority apartheid rule. Since the end of his presidency, Mandela has become one of the most esteemed leaders in the world, in a sense almost a global president. Whenever he has had health issues, the entire world has held its breath until receiving word of his recovery.

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