JOHANNESBURG — Former South African President Nelson Mandela is in “serious but stable” condition after being admitted to the hospital for a fourth time since December.
“During the past few days former President Nelson Mandela has had a recurrence of lung infection,” according to a statement on the website of President Jacob Zuma Saturday. “This morning at about 1:30 a.m. his condition deteriorated and he was transferred to a Pretoria hospital.”
Mandela, 94, was treated in the hospital in April for a bout of pneumonia and had to have fluid drained from around his lungs. He also had gallstones removed this year.
Mandela served for five years as South Africa’s first black president after his African National Congress party won all-race elections that ended apartheid in 1994. He spent 27 years in prison, most of it on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, where he contracted tuberculosis. Also known by his clan name, Madiba, Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
The infection “affects his breathing,” Mac Maharaj, a presidential spokesman, said by telephone Saturday. “The doctors are saying it’s serious but he’s stable. He’s able to breathe on his own.”
The condition is “treatable on its own,” Maharaj told eNCA television.
The ANC and its political allies, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party, were among those wishing Mandela a speedy recovery.
“We will keep President Mandela and his family in our thoughts and prayers at this time and call upon South Africans and the peoples of the globe to do the same,” Jackson Mthembu, an ANC spokesman, said in an emailed statement.
Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, canceled an appearance at a London summit on hunger Saturday to return to South Africa, the Press Association reported, citing the event’s organizers.
In an April interview Zuma said Mandela had been “sprightly” when he’d seen him in the hospital that month.
“He is doing very well,” Zuma said on April 24. “He is a good fighter. He is actually demonstrating this in his old age. We just accept the fact that he is no longer young. We are happy that we are still with him.”