Mandela ambulance breaks down


JOHANNESBURG — The emergency ambulance carrying Nelson Mandela to hospital two weeks ago broke down, the South African presidential spokesman says.

Report by BBC

Mac Maharaj confirmed that the vehicle had engine trouble and that the former President was transferred to another ambulance.

But he said there was no threat to Mandela as he was surrounded by intensive care nurses the whole time.

American network CBS quotes sources as saying he had to wait for 40 minutes.

The CBS report says the transfer to another ambulance took place in freezing winter temperatures.

Mandela (94) was being transported from Johannesburg to a hospital in Pretoria in the early hours of June 8.

He was admitted in a serious condition with a recurrence of long-standing lung problems and has been in intensive care since. It is his third stay in hospital this year.

The embarrassment for the South African government of the breakdown of the military ambulance is obvious — how much it could have affected his condition during the emergency is likely to be argued over intensely now that the story has emerged.

There has been little information about his condition for some days. President Jacob Zuma said on June 13 that his health continued to improve but his condition remained serious.

More recently, one of Mandela’s grandsons Ndaba Mandela said his grandfather was getting better and he hoped he would be home soon.

Maharaj confirmed the ambulance breakdown in an interview with local TV station, eNCA.

“I appreciate the concern caused by this,” he said.

“I want to assure the public that from the presidency side we are assured by the doctors that all care was taken to ensure that former President Nelson Mandela’s medical condition was not compromised by this incident.”

Maharaj said Mandela was in a convoy with a full complement of medical staff and no-one could have predicted the engine problem. “It happens in life,” he said.

The presidential spokesman dismissed speculation surrounding Mandela’s medical condition, calling for things to be done “in a dignified way” and urging the media to rely on updates from the presidential office.