Maharaj lashes out at journalists over Madiba health reports

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj. (M&G)

Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj. (M&G)

"The doctors have indicated very firmly that some of the reporting is transgressing medical ethics," said presidential spokesperson Maharaj on Monday, taking the mic once President Jacob Zuma left. "Not just in the way of patient-doctor confidentiality, but in the way doctors have been interviewed."

Maharaj said doctors refused to tell him what medication the ailing icon was on, citing doctor-patient confidentiality.

The spokesperson, meanwhile, carried on punting the pro-ANC election message Zuma began the briefing with.

"It has been a privilege to live to see democracy and to be tutored by Mandela and [Oliver] Tambo and the like," said Maharaj. "I keep pinching myself and saying: you lucky sod, you're still alive."

But the media would not let Zuma and Maharaj off lightly concerning a breakdown of the ambulance that initially carried Mandela to the hospital.

'No cardiac arrest'
"There was no cardiac arrest when he was carried to the hospital," said Maharaj, disapproving the media's reporting and insinuations that the presidency's reports could not be trusted.

But the presidency kept the ambulance breakdown from the public and only released a statement when the news was uncovered by CBS's Deborah Patta, who also called into question the risks the breakdown posed to Mandela's health.

"Why do you want these answers two weeks later?" Maharaj asked the journalist, adding that the questions were sent late and the report did not carry his full response.

Another journalist said the perception persisted that the presidency was not being fully frank with the public.

Zuma skirted around this issue during his briefing.

The president also said during the briefing that Madiba remained in a critical condition in hospital and that he was unable to give any further information on the statesman's health.

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.  Read more from Verashni Pillay

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