Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula paid tribute to all SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) personnel who cared for former president Nelson Mandela until he passed away last Thursday.
She also lauded the about 20-strong team of doctors from SAMHS, the Reserve Force and university professors who made up Mandela’s medical team for not leaking information about his state of health.
“Amazingly, some were civilians, but because they had taken an oath in their career of patient/doctor confidentiality they never leaked and for that we are forever grateful,” she said in a telephonic interview with the SA Press Association.
“These are the people who for the past three, four, years, spent their lives and days looking after this man.
“They left their families, their relocated to take care of Tata.”
She said following Mandela’s last admission to hospital in Pretoria in June for a lung infection, President Jacob Zuma cancelled a trip to Mozambique as speculation was mounting over Mandela’s condition.
“All of us could see Madiba was very sick. There was a hullabaloo about why the President cancelled the Mozambique trip. Zuma cancelled because things were bad.
“That information was never leaked. So much happened and there were moments you realised the doctors and nurses were exhausted but determined to look after the old man.
“None of them ever sold the story of exactly what was happening behind closed doors in Houghton or behind hospital doors.”
On the night he died, medical staff said their final farewells and left the room.
“I almost broke down in tears when I saw them,” Mapisa-Nqakula said adding she had instructed the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to reward and honour those on the medical team for the work they did.