/ 25 June 2013

Holomisa: We briefed the elders on Mandela’s condition

UDM president Bantu Holomisa.
UDM president Bantu Holomisa.

Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement and friend of former president Nelson Mandela and his family, has denied talk that the Mandela family meeting in Qunu on Tuesday was called to discuss the logistics surrounding Mandela's condition.

"The purpose of the meeting was to brief the elders about Mandela's condition. With some family members living in Johannesburg and others in the Eastern Cape, it becomes important to make sure everyone is kept up to speed with the developments. One does not want to leave the elders behind.

"They were not given any additional details on Mandela's condition. They were told exactly what President Jacob Zuma has told the nation … And it was not a shock to them. They have been monitoring his health and have been reading the newspapers," he said. The meeting finished at around 3pm.

Holomisa stressed that the meeting did not include talks about Mandela's funeral or any logistical issues surrounding his ailing health. He said Mandela's funeral plans remained the responsibility of government as he is a former president.

"The family in Johannesburg will continuously update the elders in the Eastern Cape. For example, when Mac Maharaj first announced that Mandela was rushed to hospital, Makaziwe [Mandela] flew down to Qunu to brief the elders. I think she is showing leadership in that respect," Holomisa said.

He said that on Tuesday afternoon, the Mandela elders were briefed on "exactly" what the presidency told the world in its communiqués on Mandela's health.

Holomisa said the meeting was attended by the Mandela elders, Mandela's daughter, Makaziwe, his grandson, Mandla Mandela, and Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

No 'emergency' meeting
Mandela remains critical and Holomisa stressed that the elders of the Mandela family were not given any more insights into his health than what the public had been told.

Holomisa denied speculation that the meeting was an "emergency" one, rather, he told the Mail & Guardian that it was held with the sole purpose of briefing the elders of the Mandela family on the latest developments surrounding Mandela's health.

Mandela was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on June 8 for treatment for a recurring lung infection. Word from the presidency in the first two weeks of Mandela's hospital stay was that the former statesman was in a "serious but stable" condition, and later that he was responding to treatment.

But on Sunday night, the presidency said Mandela's health deteriorated and that he was now in a critical condition.

On Tuesday, it said Mandela's condition remained unchanged.

Maharaj briefing
Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj on Tuesday said Mandela's doctors continued to do everything possible to help Mandela recover to keep him comfortable. Holomisa reiterated this, saying there were no new developments around Mandela's health.

Holomisa and Makaziwe Mandela visited Mandela at the hospital on Monday afternoon.

Holomisa said he was invited to the meeting in his capacity as a "family friend", and said there was nothing unusual about his attendance – that he had attended other Mandela family meetings in the past.

Holomisa and Mandela have a long-standing friendship, which even survived Holomisa's expulsion from the ANC in 1996. He was expelled for revealing ANC "irregularities" that occurred in the former Transkei during apartheid

The two campaigned for the ANC in the first democratic elections in 1994 alongside other ANC heavyweights such as Cyril Ramaphosa. Holomisa remains an advisor to the family on Mandela's health and related issues.