News / Africa

South Africa’s Mandela Hospitalized for Lung Infection

Former South African president Nelson Mandela shown in a 2003 file photo.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela shown in a 2003 file photo.
Anita Powell
Doctors are treating former South African leader Nelson Mandela for recurrence of a lung infection.  Officials made the assessment Tuesday, on the former president’s fourth day in a Pretoria military hospital. The announcement follows days of worry and speculation about the popular former president's health.

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said Tuesday Nelson Mandela is responding to treatment after doctors determined he has a lung infection.

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The former South African president and anti-apartheid icon has now spent three nights in a military hospital in Pretoria.  Maharaj gave few details. Like many South Africans, he called Mandela by his clan name, Madiba.

"The doctors have concluded the tests and these have revealed a recurrence of a previous lung infection, for which Madiba is receiving appropriate treatment and he is responding to the treatment," Maharaj said.

Maharaj did not say how severe the condition is or what treatment Mandela is receiving. He would not say how long Mandela might remain in the hospital.

Government officials said Saturday he was admitted for routine tests, and President Jacob Zuma said Sunday he visited the 94-year-old Mandela and found him to be “comfortable.”

Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital in January 2011 for an acute respiratory infection. He also tested positive for tuberculosis in 1988, during his 27-year imprisonment for fighting minority white rule.

After his release in 1990, he went on to become South Africa’s first black president in the nation’s first multiracial elections in 1994. He was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to bring an end to apartheid.

On Monday, Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, told a local TV station that her husband’s famous “sparkle” is fading.  

But Maharaj appealed for Mandela’s privacy and urged the media and public to not speculate about his health and the implications for South Africa. “This is not the time to use the health of a man we adore to start speculating about the political implications or the political future and present of South Africa,” he said.

Mandela’s family and charitable foundation have tightened their ranks around him since his 2004 retirement from public life. He recently returned to his remote home village of Qunu to spend his twilight years.


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