Critics say the party craved attention in showing an image of the former president appearing frail.
The South African ruling party, African National Congress, ANC, has defended its display of a frail image of former President Nelson Mandela, saying the photo, which has sparked national outrage, was done in public interest.
Many South Africans criticized the picture which showed Mr. Mandela, 95, appearing weak when the leadership of ANC, led by President Jacob Zuma, visited him on Monday at his Johannesburg home.
The footage, exclusively shown by the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation, SABC, showed the anti-apartheid icon looking blankly at the camera while those around him chatted and laughed.
With Mr. Mandela were Mr. Zuma, ANC deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson Baleka Mbete and his medical team.
President Zuma told the newsmen after the visit that Mandela was “in good shape’’ and that he was “up and about’’.
The footage has been widely criticized by South Africans, especially in the social media, where the party is accused of seeking to draw cheap publicity.
Spokesperson for the ANC, Jackson Mthembu, said showing the image was the right thing to do.
“The showing of the images of Madiba was the right thing to do as the world needed to see him,” Mr. Mthembu said.
“Those who are complaining that Madiba’s latest image was a publicity stunt by the African National Congress are eating sour grapes.
“We are happy we shared Madiba with the world, even in his frail state.”
“Our people have not seen Madiba in many years. Now they have seen him with their clear eyes. We are happy with his health. He is no longer a young man, everybody expects Madiba at the age of 95 to be frail.”
Mr. Mthembu said the ANC had invited only the SABC to accompany them during the visit to Mandela’s home to avoid “making Mandela uncomfortable’’.
“We did not invite the whole crew, because we care about Madiba. The SABC even distributed the images to other broadcasters. This was in the public interest,’’ he said.
Mr. Mthembu said there would have been an “avalanche of criticism’’ towards the ANC if it had not shown Mandela’s images to the public after the visit.