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South African government denies Mandela in a coma

Visitor says he’s aware

Well-wishers wrote messages on a portrait of Nelson Mandela outside the Pretoria hospital where he is a patient.

DAI KUROKAWA/EPA

Well-wishers wrote messages on a portrait of Nelson Mandela outside the Pretoria hospital where he is a patient.

JOHANNESBURG — The South African government has denied a report that former president Nelson Mandela was in a “permanent vegetative state” in a Pretoria hospital, saying Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader, remains in “critical but stable” condition.

The Thursday report by the Agence France-Presse pointed to court papers filed June 26 in a dispute among Mandela family members over the burial location of three of Mandela’s children.

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In the document, a lawyer for members of the Mandela family explained why they believed the court should act urgently on the matter, pointing to Mandela’s life-threatening condition. Also on Thursday, Mandela’s wife, Graça Machel, described him as sometimes uncomfortable and in pain, but otherwise “fine.”

Denis Goldberg, a former fellow anti-apartheid activist who visited Mandela in the hospital Monday, said that he had found the ailing former president “totally conscious” and in much better shape than he had expected.

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