JOHANNESBURG— South African officials said former president Nelson Mandela has been released from a Pretoria hospital and will recover at his Johannesburg area home. The 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon spent 18 days in the hospital for a lung infection and gallstones.
A spokesman for the presidency said Mandela’s longest hospital stay in decades came to an end late Wednesday.
Spokesman Mac Maharaj said Thursday doctors felt they needed to keep the former president in the hospital for 18 days before releasing him to his home in Johannesburg’s Houghton suburb late Wednesday.
He was admitted to the Pretoria hospital on December 8, and officials said then it was for “routine tests.” They later said he had been diagnosed with a lung infection.
Days later spokesman Maharaj said Mandela was also operated on for gallstones.
“The doctors, as we said earlier, were monitoring his progress and that they needed to be satisfied that they had made sufficient progress before they decided to discharge him. He reached that point late yesterday and the doctors decided that it was appropriate that he could go home."
Maharaj added that Mandela was returned to his Houghton home "where he will undergo home-based high care until he is fully recovered. So that’s the state of play at the moment. Good progress, I think it’s something you all have been wishing for and praying for. And we are pleased that he is able now to spend time with his family.”
This was Mandela’s second hospitalization this year.
In February, he was hospitalized for a long standing stomach ailment. He also tested positive for tuberculosis in 1988, during his 27-year imprisonment for fighting racist white rule.
Maharaj said Mandela was in good spirits. He said the aging leader would receive “high care” - meaning he will be constantly supervised by medical professionals.
Because of that high level of care, Maharaj said, doctors chose to keep Mandela in the Johannesburg area instead of sending him to his home in the rural Eastern Cape province town of Qunu.
Qunu is the town Mandela considers home, and it is where he has recently spent most of his time. It is also where many Mandela family members are buried.
Maharaj said he could not say when Mandela could go back to Qunu.
Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, after his release from prison. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his role in ending the racist apartheid system.