'Mandela does not talk much anymore'

FORMER president Nelson Mandela does not talk much anymore, but does reach out in another way.

This is according to his eldest daughter Makaziwe Mandela, who told Sapa-AP in an interview that, "It's the hand that he stretches out. It is the touching of the hand that speaks volumes for me".

"And for me, if you ask me what I would treasure, it is this moment that I treasure with my father," said Makaziwe, the oldest of Mandela's three surviving children, all daughters.

"My dad has not been in good health over the past month. And he has good days and he has bad days," Makaziwe said in her Johannesburg home.

One of those bad days was April 29, when Mandela appeared on television broadcast footage following a visit by President Jacob Zuma and other ANC leaders at his Houghton, Johannesburg, home.

Zuma told the world that Mandela was in good shape, but the footage - the first public images of Mandela in nearly a year - showed him silent and unresponsive, even when Zuma tried to hold his hand.

Makaziwe said her family was grateful that the "movement", as she refers to the ANC, still visits her father. The broadcasting of the video was unfortunate, she said.

"In previous visits, there was no need to take a picture. What happened this time, I don't know," said Makaziwe.

Makaziwe said the "dignity and privacy" of her father, also a father to the nation, is sometimes under threat, complaining that 20 journalists one day this month converged on her father's home, where he receives medical treatment, after an ambulance left to fetch medicine from a hospital.

"This is really utter madness," she said. "This thing that everybody has got to be the first one to hear when Nelson Mandela goes, it's not right. All of you will have your opportunity. You will get the news from the Presidency at the right time."

Makaziwe said her father does have regrets in life though, mostly about his family. "He was not there as a father. He tried the best way that he could when he came out of jail.

"But you understand that my father came out of jail and was swallowed up even before he became president."

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