A video showing Nelson Mandela looking frail and detached in his Johannesburg home has sparked controversy in South Africa.
In footage aired Tuesday by state media outlet South Africa Broadcasting Corporation, or SABC, President Jacob Zuma is shown visiting Mandela and his family. The scene is a lively one -- except for Mandela himself, who sits in an armchair and stares straight ahead for most of his time on camera.
“He is looking very good; he’s in good shape,” says Zuma while speaking to reporters outside Mandela’s home. “We had some conversation with him, shook hands, he was smiling.”
Footage from eNews Channel Africa shows the SABC Tuesdsay broadcast.
But some are furious at SABC and the African National Congress, or ANC, the party that once led the charge to defeat apartheid, or institutionalized racial segregation. Critics argue that Zuma has steered the ANC in the wrong direction, and that he is using Mandela’s legacy to bolster the party’s standing.
Many South Africans voice their disappointment over the footage on Twitter.
— Miss Tweetie(@OthaKindaBird) April 30, 2013
Just another day of leaving our ethics at the door to make the ANC look good. Sorry Madiba, you can have some privacy now.
— SABC Too (@SABCtoo) April 30, 2013
The ANC must free Mandela.
— Khaya Dlanga (@khayadlanga) April 29, 2013
Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994. Before the end of apartheid in 1990, Mandela had been imprisoned for 27 years due to his underground activism on behalf of the ANC. It was behind bars that he first contracted tuberculosis, which is believed to be the cause of his frequent lung infections today.
During his five-year tenure as South Africa’s leader, Mandela promoted equality and emphasized his belief that white and black citizens had to work together to turn the page on a troubled history.
The ANC has dominated the national government ever since, and South Africa had remained the largest economy on the continent. But society there still suffers from deep divisions and a massive wealth gap; Zuma and other leading party members have been accused of fostering endemic corruption.
Mandela has not made a public appearance since last year. He has fallen ill several times in the past few months due to pneumonia and recurring lung problems; he was most recently discharged from a 10-day hospitalization on April 6.
Rumors of his physical frailty and failing mental health continue to circulate, but the subject remains somewhat taboo since South Africans feel a deep reverence for the man who helped lead the country out of its darkest days.