A new video which shows South African President Jacob Zuma and officials of the governing African National Congress visiting a frail Nelson Mandela has stirred controversy.
The video of the encounter, aired by state broadcaster South African Broadcasting Corporation, has sparked accusations of exploiting the anti-apartheid hero’s illness.
This is the first television appearance Mandela has made in almost a year.
Zuma and ANC officials are shown visiting the former South African president at his Johannesburg home, where he has been resting after a bout of pneumonia.
Mandela stares mostly straight ahead, his face showing little expression in the footage.
The 94-year-old was in “good health” and “good spirits”, the ANC said after Monday’s visit, in the first update on his condition since he was discharged from hospital in early April.
The footage shows Mandela sitting next to Zuma with a pillow behind his head and his legs propped up under a blanket.
“After receiving a briefing from the medical team, the national officials are satisfied that President Mandela is in good health and is receiving the very best medical care,” the ANC said.
But the video shows Mandela in an armchair looking grey-skinned and unsmiling with his cheeks showing what appear to be marks from a recently removed oxygen mask.
|Nelson Mandela was in “good health” and “good spirits”, the ruling African National Congress said after the Monday visit. [AFP]|
Zuma jokes and laughs with two officials of the ANC, some Mandela family members and the former president’s medical team while Mandela stares straight ahead.
Zuma tries to hold Mandela’s hand but, given his lack of response, ends up covering it with his own.
Mandela spent more than a week in hospital being treated for a recurring lung infection identified as pneumonia – the third health scare in four months for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
He stepped down as president in 1999 and has not been politically active for about a decade. But he is still revered at home and abroad for leading the long campaign against apartheid and then championing racial reconciliation.
Mandela’s lung problems date from his time as a political prisoner when he contracted tuberculosis. He spent 27 years on Robben Island and in other jails for trying to oust the white-minority government.
Television stations showed still images of Mandela smiling broadly during a visit by Hillary Clinton to his country home in August.
The last video footage of Mandela showed his birthday celebrations in July last year.