Any trust built between the office of the South African president and the media has dissolved with the revelation that former President Nelson Mandela may not be in One Military hospital in Pretoria after all.
Since Mandela fell ill and was hospitalised on Saturday, journalists have been camped outside One Military hospital as, when he is sick, it is the military which takes charge of facilitating his treatment. On Monday, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula emerged from One Military and announced he was “doing very, very well” (having been diagnosed with a lung infection) and that he was inside “One Mil”.
But on Thursday there were reports he may actually be receiving treatment elsewhere in the city. The presidency issued a statement saying, as it had done all along, that Mandela was in “a Pretoria hospital” noting the “media speculation” and adding that “we have refrained from disclosing the hospital in order to ensure privacy and also to allow doctors space to do their work of caring for Madiba without interruptions or undue pressure”.
Did the minister lie? Was Mandela moved at some point in secret? Is this a ploy to get the media away from One Military so he can be moved or discharged? Or has he in fact not been there at all?
Perhaps the more important question is whether or not the rest of the information given over the past few days – that Mr Mandela has a lung infection and is recovering – is, in fact, the whole truth.