Former South African president Nelson Mandela was hospitalized Thursday, a day after crucial evidence tying him and current president Jacob Zuma to an intricate financial scandal broke.
Mandela was taken to a military hospital in the capital Pretoria so quickly that some family members and his own foundation did not initially know what happened, reports the BBC.
Government authorities and others who have always been silent about Mandela’s health gave no information on his current condition, other than to say he was in good spirits and being treated for symptoms “consistent with his age.”
The 94-year-old has been hospitalized twice over the last two years, first in January 2011 for a reported collapsed lung but turned out to be an invasive abdominal procedure, then again in February 2012 for another “diagnostic procedure” related to a long-standing abdominal problem. It is believed Mandela suffers from extended hernia problems.
Dr. Charles Muzamhindo, a specialist physician and critical care specialist in Johannesburg, told the Mail and Guardian that Mandela’s hospitalizations carry a “certain level of risk” due to his age.
Mandela’s last public appearance was in July 2010, when he attended the final match and closing ceremonies of the World Cup Games, held in South Africa.
Mandela’s sudden hospitalization comes a day after the Mail and Guardian published crucial evidence tying him to a corruption scandal involving President Jacob Zuma.
Documents show Mandela gave Zuma R1m in 2005, days after then-president Thabo Mbeki fired him as ANC deputy president and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that it would charge Zuma with corruption.
Information about the money, which was given to help Zuma pay off his debts, was never submitted to the NPA and the case was later dropped.
Mandela is one of several influential South African brokers who bailed Zuma out at the time. The list includes his nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, Durban businessman Vivian Reddy and the president’s corruption-convicted, former financial adviser Schabir Shaik. More than R7m was given to Zuma to help him out financially between 1995 and 2006.
The Mail and Guardian report also shows many large commercial banks “bent over backwards” to accommodate Zuma because of his political position.
The ANC had no comment on the story, on the grounds it was Zuma’s private matter.
“It has nothing to do with anybody,” ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said.
Zuma visited Mandela on Sunday, later telling reporters South Africa’s first Black president was in “good hands” and “looked well,” reports ABC News.