JOHANNESBURG— Former South African president Nelson Mandela is in a hospital again for the second time since December. Members of President Jacob Zuma's office say it is a scheduled checkup and there is no cause for alarm.
Nelson Mandela checked into the hospital in Pretoria Saturday afternoon. The anti-apartheid icon is 94 years old, and suffers from a variety of ailments, said presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj. Like most South Africans, Maharaj refers to the beloved former president by his clan name, Madiba.
"We are aware that Madiba has a number of existing conditions, from the knees to his respiratory system. And with his age, people would be prone to small and big setbacks. But in his case, the doctors are monitoring him very carefully - assiduously - and every time they feel there is any reason, they ensure they are on the ball and up and running and attending to it [paying extremely close attention to any change in his condition]," he said.
Maharaj said this hospitalization was routine and should not cause panic.
"The doctors are conducting tests and thus far the doctors have indicated that there is no reason for any alarm," he said.
Mandela was hospitalized for 18 days for a lung infection and gallstones beginning in December. Before that, he was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital in January 2011 for an acute respiratory infection. He also tested positive for tuberculosis in 1988, during the 27 years he spent in prison for opposing whites-only rule in South Africa.
When the apartheid system collapsed, Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, and he subsequently was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping bring an end to the country's former racist policies. He stepped down from the presidency in 1999, and retired from public life in 2004. Since then has appeared very rarely.