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South Africa: Mandela Not in Vegetative State

Wellwishers post messages outside the hospital where ailing former President Nelson Mandela is being treated in Pretoria, July 5, 2013.
The South African government has denied a report that former president Nelson Mandela is in a vegetative state.

The report Thursday from the French news agency was based on court documents filed last month.

A statement from the presidency cites doctors as denying the report, and reiterates an earlier statement that Mandela remains in critical but stable condition.

The anti-apartheid icon, who is 94, has spent nearly a month in Pretoria's Mediclinic Heart Hospital.

A close friend and fellow anti-apartheid activist, Denis Goldberg, told reporters Friday that when he visited Mandela earlier in the week, the former president was conscious. Goldberg said that Mandela was responsive to what he was saying.

The court documents stemmed from a legal dispute within the Mandela family over where three of Mandela's deceased children should be buried.

The three bodies were moved back to their original burial site in Mandela's hometown of Qunu on Thursday, after a court order.

In Pretoria Friday, well-wishers chanted songs and released balloons outside the hospital to show support for the ailing former president.

Mandela is revered in South Africa and beyond for his role in ending official racial discrimination and white minority rule. After spending 27 years in prison, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and was elected South Africa's first black president the following year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.