/ 4 May 2004

Mbeki visits Brenda Fassie

President Thabo Mbeki paid a short visit to comatose pop diva Brenda Fassie at the Sunninghill Hospital north of Johannesburg on Monday night.

African National Congress spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama said Mbeki sat next to Fassie’s bed for about 20 minutes. He also spoke to her family who are at the hospital and sought to comfort them.

Mbeki afterwards spoke to a media contingent gathered at the hospital and appealed to all South Africans to pray ”with family during this difficult time”.

He also appealed for responsible and respectful reporting, a reference to some sensational and unsubstantiated claims made over the weekend, including Fassie being brain-dead.

A prayer service was held for Fassie earlier on Monday evening at the hospital where she is in a coma after suffering an asthma attack last week, her record company EMI said.

The service was conducted by Pastor Musa Sono of the Grace Bible Church in Soweto, EMI Records lawyer Leslie Sedibe said. He said earlier on Monday that Fassie, who has been in a coma since being admitted to the hospital, contracted a lung infection overnight.

”After an examination this morning by her doctors, it was established that Brenda had picked up a lung infection,” said Sedibe.

”This is currently being treated and the doctors do not consider the infection to be life threatening,” he said, adding that Fassie was still in a critical condition.

Fassie was hospitalised on Monday last week following an asthma attack which led to cardio-respiratory arrest. Doctors were able to resuscitate but she fell into a coma. Sedibe confirmed Fassie had also suffered damage to her brain, but said this was ”not the same as saying somebody is brain dead”.

He said a neurosurgeon from the Sunninghill Hospital confirmed that Fassie’s neurological condition remained the same.

”She remains in a coma and her condition is considered critical but stable.”

Sedibe said the Fassie family wished to thank Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, her daughter Zinzi, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, former boxing champion Baby Jakes Matlala, musician Mariam Makeba and Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni for their support.

Gauteng arts and culture MEC Barbara Creecy visited Fassie at the hospital on Monday and told SABC radio news that the diva was still alive.

”The MEC says she has seen Brenda and the pop icon is still alive. They have asked the public for support and prayers to help her pull through,” SABC radio news reported. – Sapa