— Anti-apartheid icon and former South African president Nelson Mandela is in critical condition after more than two weeks in a Pretoria hospital. South Africa President Jacob Zuma made the statement Sunday night. Mandela is now 94 years old and has been suffering from a lung infection.
Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj says Mandela's condition has deteriorated in the last 24 hours. He was admitted to the hospital on June 8. It is his fourth hospitalization since December.
Maharaj did not give any specific details of the anti-apartheid icon's condition, aside from classifying it as critical. Maharaj referred to Mandela by his clan name, Madiba.
"The medical team have briefed President Jacob Zuma who was accompanied by the ANC deputy president, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, when they visited former President Mandela at his hospital on the evening of the 23rd of June. Their briefing has indicated that the former president's condition has become critical over the past 24 hours. They have also met during that visit at the hospital Mrs. Graca Machel (Mandela’s wife) and discussed Madiba's condition. Doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and ensuring he is well-looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands, says President Zuma, but he has appealed to the nation and the world to pray for Madiba, the family and the medical team that is attending to him during this difficult time," he said.
Maharaj said the man considered the father of modern South Africa was in serious, but stable condition until recently. "Over the last 24 hours, clearly there is a downturn, which is a cause for concern. And the condition that was described as serious has now deteriorated to the point where the doctors now say his condition is critical," he said.
Mandela served as South Africa’s first black president. He was elected in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule. He is credited with being one of the main personalities who brought apartheid to an end.
His health has worsened in recent years. He has been in and out of the hospital for much of this year, and between that has been given home-based intensive care.
He spent 18 days in a hospital in December. He also tested positive for tuberculosis in 1988, during his prison term.
Mandela retired from public life in 2004.
Nelson Mandela smiles for photographers at his home in Johannesburg September 22, 2005.
Nelson Mandela and his then wife, Winnie, salute well-wishers as he leaves Victor Verster prison on Feb. 11, 1990.
This undated photograph shows Nelson Mandela and his former wife, Winnie.
South African State President Frederik Willem de Klerk and Deputy President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela prior to talks, Cape Town, May 2, 1990.
Nelson Mandela, is seen as he gives the black power salute to 120,000 ANC supporters in Soweto's Soccer City stadium, Feb. 13, 1990.
Then-African National Congress President Nelson Mandela salutes the crowd in Galeshewe Stadium near Kimberley, South Africa, Feb. 25, 1994.
Nelson Mandela and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II ride in a carriage outside Buckingham Palace on the first day of a state visit to Britain, July 9, 1996.
President Nelson Mandela and Britain's Prince Charles shake hands alongside members of the Spice Girls, Nov. 1, 1997.
Former U.S President Bill Clinton and former South African President Nelson Mandela speak during a Gala night in Westminster Hall, London, July 2, 2003.
Oscar winning South African actress Charlize Theron weeps at her meeting with former South African President Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, March 11,2004.
Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, wave to the audience during a Live 8 concert in Johannesburg, July 2, 2005.
Nelson Mandela jokes with youngsters as they celebrate his 89th birthday at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in Johannesburg, July 24, 2007.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela, center, followed by his grandson Mandla Mandela, rear right, arrives at the ceremony in Mvezo, South Africa, April 16, 2007.
Nelson Mandela waves to the media as he arrives outside 10 Downing Street, London, August 28, 2007.
Nelson Mandela waves as he arrives to attend the 2010 World Cup football final Netherlands vs. Spain on July 11, 2010 at Soccer City stadium in Soweto.
Nelson Mandela poses for a photograph after receiving a torch to celebrate the African National Congress' centenary in his home village Qunu, May 30, 2012.