By JON GAMBRELL 12/14/12 11:26 AM ET EST
JOHANNESBURG — Where is Nelson Mandela?
As the 94-year-old patriarch of South Africa’s democracy entered his seventh day of hospitalization Friday for a recurring lung infection, confusion grew as government officials appeared to contradict themselves over where he is being treated.
With the government refusing to say where Mandela is, concern grew across this nation of 50 million people about the health of the anti-apartheid icon.
Mandela, admitted Saturday to a hospital, was thought to have been at 1 Military Hospital near South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, after Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she visited the leader there Monday. But when local media reported that Mandela wasn’t at that hospital Thursday night, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj declined to give the whereabouts of the ailing politician.
“President Mandela is being treated at a Pretoria hospital as said from the first statement we issued,” Maharaj said. “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.”
It was not immediately clear if Mandela had been moved or if he had been at a different facility during his entire seven-day hospitalization, his longest since 2001, when he underwent radiation therapy after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
On Monday, addressing journalists after her visit, Mapisa-Nqakula said: “We confirm that former President Mandela is in (the) hospital, 1 Military Hospital, and he’s doing very, very well.”
Sonwabo Mbananga, a defense department spokesman, said Friday that “the minister is not going to clarify anything” about her remarks Monday and declined to comment further.
On Friday, journalists saw a convoy of presidential security cars and an ambulance leave a private Pretoria hospital and later arrive at 1 Military Hospital. However, it could not be immediately determined if the convoy had anything to do with Mandela’s care.