"Those who are complaining that Madiba's latest images was a publicity stunt by the ANC are eating sour grapes … We are happy we shared Madiba with the world, even in his frail state," said spokesperson Jackson Mthembu on Tuesday.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and South Africa's first post-apartheid president was shown sitting impassively with a blanket over his legs in footage of a visit by ANC top leaders to his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Monday.
In the exclusive South African Broadcasting Corporation broadcast, he looked blankly at the camera, while those around him chatted and laughed.
With him were President Jacob Zuma, ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, chairperson Baleka Mbete and his medical team.
Zuma told the state broadcaster that Mandela was "in good shape" and "up and about" after his release from hospital earlier this month after receiving treatment for recurring lung problems.
"Our people have not seen Madiba in many years. Now they have seen him open and close his eyes … We are happy with his health. He is no longer a young man," said Mthembu.
He said the ANC had invited only the SABC to avoid "making Mandela uncomfortable".
Footage courtesy of the SABC
Reactions to the visit
"We did not invite the whole crew, because we care about Madiba. The SABC even distributed the images to other broadcasters. This was in the public interest."
Mthembu said there would have been an "avalanche of criticism" towards the ANC if it had not shown Mandela's images.
The footage has been widely criticised, with the Associated Press reporting that it would likely cause more concern for the many South Africans who revere Mandela.
Some viewers took to Twitter shortly after the short video was broadcasted, voicing their displeasure at the footage of Mandela. Ranjeni Munusamy said: "Who's the idiot who took a picture of Madiba with flash during the visit by ANC officials? Don't they know it hurts his eyes?!"
Another Twitter user commented: "After everything the man has done for us this is how we treat him. Like an animal at the zoo. Shame on us."
Another person said: "After months of attacking media for 'invading' Mandela's privacy, ANC today released an invasive video of a clearly ailing and grim Mandela."
"SABC claims Mandela looks 'relaxed' and 'in good spirits' but the new video contradicts that claim," wrote another user.
Early in March, he was admitted to a Pretoria hospital for a scheduled check-up. He was discharged the following day. In December last year, Mandela underwent an operation to remove gallstones and treat the lung infection.
He was discharged after an 18-day stay and placed under home-based high care at his Houghton home. In January, the presidency said Mandela had made a full recovery from the surgery and continued to improve.
In February last year he was admitted to hospital for a stomach ailment. At the time, the presidency said Mandela underwent a diagnostic procedure to investigate the cause of a long-standing abdominal complaint.
In January 2011, Mandela was taken to Milpark Hospital for routine tests relating to respiratory problems.
Mandela's last major public appearance was in July 2010, at the final of the Fifa World Cup at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg. Since then he has spent his time between Johannesburg and his ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape. – Sapa