Mandela defies doctors' orders to prove he is fit for the fight

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The Independent Online
IN A WEEK when Nelson Mandela was diagnosed by his doctors to be suffering from exhaustion and ordered to rest, the question was not so much why he was so tired, but why he was in such remarkable health?

He yesterday defied doctors' orders and made a brief appearance at an electoral fund-raiser in Soweto to thank 500 guests from around the world for their support and reassure them he was not ill.

'My doctors have given me a clean bill of health,' he said. 'In order to prepare for the strenuous tasks that lie ahead, I will now begin my two weeks of complete rest. Your love sustained me throughout my prison years. Your concern for my well-being now overwhelms me. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.'

The ANC issued two statements yesterday to quell fears Mr Mandela, 74, had succumbed to ill health, fears shared by both the ANC, for whom he guarantees triumph in South Africa's first all-race elections, and the government, which knows he is the one ANC figure with the authority to ensure talks proceed apace for a peaceful political settlement.

The first ANC statement said Mr Mandela had been struck down with 'flu-like symptoms' shortly after watching the West Indies beat Pakistan in a cricket match last Saturday. Afterwards, Mr Mandela was persuaded to go into a private Johannesburg clinic for three days of tests. Antibiotics, apparently, cleared the problem. The second statement sought to reassure the public that, given Mr Mandela's punishing schedule, it would be unnatural if he were not exhausted. It was headed 'A Typical Day In The Life Of Nelson Mandela'.

Much the way he did during his years in prison, he starts the day at 5am with morning exercises before breakfast, and by 7am he is in his office at ANC headquarters in Johannesburg to conduct his first meeting of the day. At 8.30am he meets staff to plan the day; an hour later he attends a public engagement; at 10am he meets one of the ANC departments; at 11am he meets the Negotiations Commission to assess bilateral meetings with the government; and at 1pm he has a working lunch with businessmen.

At 3pm he meets the ANC Peace Desk to hear the latest political violence report; at 5pm he attends a book launch; at 7.30pm he is the keynote speaker at a banquet; he gets home by about 9.30pm and, before going to bed, reads documentation requiring his attention the next day.

Dr Louis Gecelter, one of the doctors who treated him last week, explained in a recent interview why Mr Mandela was so remarkably fit for his age. It was partly the dietary discipline and exercise routine 27 years in prison instill, and partly because Mr Mandela, in his seventies, is a man for whom life is only just beginning, for whom the important goals of life still lie ahead.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - President de Klerk yesterday appointed the first Coloured and Indian ministers to his cabinet. Abe Williams, of the South African parliament's mixed-race chamber, was named Minister of Sport; Jac Rabie, another mixed- race politician, was made Population Development minister, and Indian lawyer Bhadra Ranchod was named Tourism minister.

The ANC said the appointments were irrelevant because the three were all from within the apartheid system. Mr De Klerk said he had not appointed a black minister because it 'would be counter-productive at the present delicate stage of negotiations'.

(Photograph omitted)