— Former South African President Nelson Mandela is making "steady progress," according to a statement from the office of President Jacob Zuma.
Friday's statement came two days after Mandela, aged 94, was hospitalized with a lung infection. It said he was in good spirits and enjoyed a full breakfast Friday morning.
On Thursday, Zuma said that Mandela is doing "very well," adding in an interview with the BBC that South Africans "must not panic."
But Mandela has been plagued with frequent health problems over the past few years, prompting growing concerns for the frail anti-apartheid leader.
He was hospitalized in 2011 and 2012, including a nearly three-week stay in hospital in December with both gallstones and lung problems. Those problems date back to his 27-year-long imprisonment on Robben Island, where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis near the end of his prison time for opposing white minority rule.
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.
While the country is hoping for the best, Johannesburg resident Zizi Dhlamini said South Africans fear losing a wise elder.
"It's sad for the country because it is always a nice thing to know that Dada is alive and he is there, even though he's ailing," said Dhlamini. "We always want to have them around for wisdom. We cherish their presence."
South Africans feel a familial connection to the country’s first black president, she said.
"Mandela is like a father to all of us, a grandfather to our children, a sister or a brother to our grandparents. So I mean he has been touching everyone's life," said Dhlamini. "Having him, I mean to say, is like we have a diamond. But he's ailing in health. So it's a sad period or season for South Africans, because we are so attached to him."
President Barack Obama, who met with African leaders Thursday, spoke with concern for the Nobel laureate.
"Well, obviously we’re all deeply concerned with Nelson Mandela’s health," said Obama. "He’s a hero I think to all of us. I’m sure that I speak for the other leaders here. And we will be keeping him in our thoughts and prayers, and his entire family. He is as strong physically as he’s been in character and in leadership over so many decades, and hopefully he will come out of this latest challenge."
Elsa Fogang, of Johannesburg, said Mandela is on her mind.
"It's more worrying than in the past because he's quite older now," Fogang said. "I think it's only natural, because he's been through a lot, going to prison… It's bad because he's like a symbol for this country and everybody looks up to him and all of that."
Fogang was off to a Good Friday service. And like many South Africans heading into the holy Christian weekend, she said she will be praying for Madiba.