ANC defends Nelson Mandela visit and video footage

Nelson Mandela (April 29 2013) Nelson Mandela spent 10 days in hospital for treatment for pneumonia

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South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC) has defended its filmed visit to Nelson Mandela, saying it was not a "publicity stunt".

They were the first pictures of the former South African president since he left hospital on 6 April after more than a week of treatment for pneumonia.

Looking dazed, he is seen surrounded by ANC leaders and well-wishers.

An ANC spokesman said the party was happy to share the 94 year old with "the world, even in his frail state".

The rare video footage of Mr Mandela, popularly known by his clan name "Madiba", was broadcast by South African public broadcaster, SABC.

Twitter reaction

The vast majority of Twitter reaction to the footage of Nelson Mandela has been hostile. "After everything the man has done for us this is how we treat him. Like an animal at the zoo. Shame on us. #mandela," wrote Marius van der Walt.

Nosipho Dhladhla tweeted: "Part of #ANC campaign for next elections. Using an old man as a puppet. Let #Mandela live his last days in peace!" Tina Yvonne-Michelle appealed for Mr Mandela to be left in peace: "People should just leave poor #Mandela alone. Let him be and let him rest. He is 94 for goodness sake."

The response from Simmi Areff was more tongue-in-cheek: "Everybody needs to calm down about the #Mandela photo shoot. The ANC needed a new Facebook Cover Photo."

A minority of Twitter users defended the footage. "Dear whites plz chill..#Mandela is supposed to look like that..He is 94 ,U are the ones that wasted his time by jailing him for 27 years," said Shibe Serakalala. Lwazi Mlaba also disagreed with much of Twitter outrage: "The #Zuma #Mandela visit is the least distasteful recording I've seen in 10 years... The media is angry they didn't get the scoop!"

Compiled by BBC Monitoring

The BBC's Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg says there has been an outcry on social media - especially Twitter, where the topic is trending - about the broadcast of the video.

Many see it as exploitative and an invasion of the former president's privacy, our correspondent adds.

In the images, Mr Mandela is seen unsmiling, seated upright on a sofa with his legs covered in a blanket as people take photographs of him using flashes.

Patrick Conroy, the head of news at South Africa's privately owned television channel eNCA, accused the ANC of applying double standards.

"The media has been repeatedly lectured by the #ANC and SA govt about respecting #Madiba's privacy and dignity. Now we know how they treat him," he wrote on Twitter.

President Jacob Zuma and ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa were among the senior ANC officials who called in on Mr Mandela at his home in Johannesburg on Monday and were given an update by his medical team.

The president said Mr Mandela "shook hands and even smiled".

"Those who are complaining that Madiba's latest images was a publicity stunt by the [ANC] are eating sour grapes," the South African news agency, Sapa, quoted ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu as saying.

"Our people have not seen Madiba in many years. Now they have seen him open and close his eyes... We are happy with his health. He is no longer a young man," he added.

Robben Island

Analysis

Nelson Mandela appeared frail but better than many feared. From what I could see from SABC's exclusive video, I noticed that Mr Mandela flinched as one of his grandsons took a photograph and a bright flash went off.

It has been many years now since photographers were requested not to use flashes when taking pictures of the 94 year old. Mr Mandela's eyes were damaged when he worked in a lime quarry while a political prisoner on Robben Island.

There are probably two reasons why President Zuma paid his old comrade and mentor a home visit. He wanted to prove the sceptics wrong. He was dispelling the myth that the former president was in bed on a life support machine, as many had speculated on social media.

Some cynics say it was pure electioneering. They say that President Zuma posed for pictures next to Mr Mandela and that he went to seek blessings from the governing ANC's most famous member with an eye on next year's crucial elections.

Mr Mandela's health has been a continuing cause for concern recently.

The veteran leader's lung problems date from his 27 years as a political prisoner.

Eighteen years were spent on the windswept Robben Island, where he contracted tuberculosis.

In December, he spent more than two weeks in hospital undergoing treatment for his lung ailment and gallstones.

In February, doctors dealt with a stomach condition.

Mr Mandela, who stepped down as president in 1999, is revered in South Africa for his role in ending the system of apartheid, or white minority rule.

He retired from public life in 2004 after acting as a high-profile ambassador for the country.

Mr Mandela became South Africa's first black president in the 1990s and is seen by many as father of the nation.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 jointly with former President FW de Klerk for ending apartheid and bringing democracy to South Africa.

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