DOCTORS treating Nelson Mandela advised his family to turn off his life support more than a week ago, according to a court document.
It claims the former South African president, who is entering his fourth week in hospital for a recurring lung infection, is in a “permanent vegetative state”.
The paper says doctors told his family to consider letting him go rather than “prolonging his suffering”.
The revelation that Mr Mandela’s family had been advised to turn off his life support emerged in a court document dated 26 June, which relates to a family feud over the final resting place of three of Mandela’s children.
The paper, submitted by lawyers acting for Mr Mandela’s eldest daughter, Makaziwe, said: “He [Mandela] is in a permanent vegetative state and is assisted in breathing by a life support machine.
“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.”
However, friends and family who have visited Mr Mandela in hospital recently say his condition has improved and that, although he is not able to talk, he remains conscious.
Denis Goldberg, a long-time friend, said the former ANC leader’s condition had improved since the document was filed.
“He is clearly a very ill man, but he was conscious and he tried to move his mouth and eyes when I talked to him. He is definitely not unconscious – he was aware of who I was,” he said.
Mr Goldberg said he had been asked by Mr Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, to pay him a visit “just to give him mental stimulation”.
Mrs Mandela described her husband’s condition as “fine”, as she again took the time to thank people around the world for the good wishes they had sent her husband, whom she referred to by his tribal name, Madiba.
She said: “Although Madiba sometimes may be uncomfortable – very few times he is in pain – but he is fine.
“I think the best gift which has given this nation again is the gift of unity. While he lies in hospital, he offered an opportunity for all of us again, from deep in our hearts, to be united.
“We saw young and old, rich and poor, black and white, people from all walks of life, all faiths, you name it, every single South African united.
“I think that’s the gift – whatever is the outcome of his stay in hospital – that will remain: his second time where he offered this nation an opportunity to be united under the banner of our flag, under the banner of our constitution.”
The feud over the burial of the children has developed into a court battle that has seen accusation and counter-accusation flying between family members.
Mandla Mandela, the oldest male Mandela heir and a tribal chief, told a news conference yesterday that “my grandfather, like myself, would be highly disappointed in what is unravelling”.
He made the statement as the bodies of the three Mandela children were reburied at their original resting place, after a court ordered their return to Qunu, the former president’s hometown and the place where he wants to be buried.
Mandla Mandela moved the bodies to his village of Mvezo in 2011, but was forced by a court action taken by 15 members of the family to return the remains.
Mr Mandela’s grandson accused other close relatives of money-grabbing. He said: “In the past few days, I have been the target of attacks from all sorts of individuals wanting a few minutes of fame and media attention at my expense.”
He accused Makaziwe of trying to “sow divisions and destruction” in the family.