A government spokesman denied reports that Nelson Mandela has left the hospital as rumors about the leader's whereabouts spin out of control.
(Photo: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool, File)
As Nelson Mandela entered his seventh day of hospitalization from a lung infection, a government spokesman denied rumors that South Africa’s iconic leader was discharged from the hospital where he was initially admitted Saturday.
“President Mandela is being treated at a Pretoria hospital as said from the first statement we issued," presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told reporters. "We have refrained from disclosing the hospital in order to ensure privacy and also to allow doctors space to do their work of caring for [him] without interruptions or undue pressure."
Suspicion over Mandela’s whereabouts began after news reports claimed that a private ambulance transporting the leader left Pretoria's Mediclinic Heart Hospital where he was receiving treatment. Several South African media outlets also began circulating reports that Mandela had, in fact, been transferred to another institution which the government declined to name.
The mixup soon spread to social media, where rumors of a Mandela death cover-up ran rampant and far-right groups began discussing preparation for an "impending" race war that they believe will occur when Mandela dies.
South African media criticized the government in the wake of the mix-up, alleging that their tight-lipped policy helped rumors and conspiracy theories flourish.
Analyst Steven Friedman, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, called the government secrecy fair, given the circumstances.
“I think they’ve confirmed with some justification that they’re trying to protect his privacy from a great deal of attention," he told Voice of America. "I don’t really think that the public really has much of a problem with it."
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