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South Africa's Zuma Urges Countrymen to Pray for Ailing Mandela

  • VOA News

In this file photo, former South African president Nelson Mandela is shown observing his 94th birthday at his house in Qunu, Eastern Cape, July 18, 2012.
South African President Jacob Zuma has visited former president and civil rights icon Nelson Mandela in the hospital and urged his countrymen to keep praying for the 94-year-old Nobel laureate.

A presidential spokesman said Zuma assured Mandela of the love and support of all South Africans, young and old - and supporters the world over - and the spokesman said Mandela continues to respond to treatment.

On Thursday, Zuma told South African politicians Mandela's health was improving following gallstone surgery and treatment for a lung infection.

The anti-apartheid icon was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on December 8. The leader, known affectionately as "Madiba," had surgery to remove gallstones on Saturday, a few days after doctors treated the lung problem.

Zuma has praised Mandela as an "unparalleled fighter" who has met all his health challenges with fortitude and grace.

An earlier statement from the president's office has said there is "no crisis" but that doctors do not want to send Mandela home "until they are satisfied that he has made sufficient progress."

Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison for his opposition to apartheid.

He has grown frail and has made few public appearances in recent years.