Nelson Mandela in good spirits and making progress

Tourists pose in front of a giant Nelson Mandela statue. Picture: Getty
Tourists pose in front of a giant Nelson Mandela statue. Picture: Getty
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Nelson Mandela is in good spirits and making steady progress during hospital treatment for a recurring lung infection, officials in South Africa said yesterday.

The 94-year-old former president enjoyed a full breakfast, according to a statement from the office of president Jacob Zuma.

It said Mr Mandela’s doctors provided the update on his condition, and that the anti-apartheid leader remained under treatment and observation.

Mr Mandela was admitted on Wednesday night to a hospital in Pretoria, the South African capital. It is his third trip to hospital since December.

The statement from Mr Zuma’s office said: “We would like to repeat our appeal for the media and the public to respect the privacy of Madiba and his family,” using Mr Mandela’s clan name, a term of affection.

In December, Mr Mandela spent three weeks in hospital in Pretoria, where he was treated for a lung infection. Earlier this month, he was in hospital overnight for what authorities said was a successful, scheduled medical test. Earlier, when asked whether people should prepare for the inevitable, Mr Zuma said: “In Zulu, when someone passes away who is very old, people say he or she has gone home. I think those are some of the things we should be thinking about.”

However, he stressed that Mr Mandela had been able to handle the situation “very well” so far, adding: “Very few outstanding personalities in the world live to his level.”

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been particularly vulnerable to respiratory problems since contracting tuberculosis during his 27-year imprisonment for fighting white racist rule in his country.

US President Barack Obama said he was concerned about Mr Mandela’s health, but noted he was as strong physically as he has been in leadership and character. Mr Obama said he was sending his thoughts and prayers to Mr Mandela, and ­described 
him as a hero and an inspiration who gave everything to his ­people.

“When you think of a single individual that embodies the kind of leadership qualities that I think we all aspire to, the first name that comes up is Nelson Mandela. And so we wish him all the very best,” he said.

Mr Zuma’s office said doctors were acting with extreme caution because of the advanced age of Mr Mandela, who has become increasingly frail in recent years.

The man who became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 is a revered figure in his homeland, which has named many buildings and other places after him and uses his image on national banknotes.

Mr Mandela was in hospital briefly earlier this month for a check-up and spent nearly three weeks in hospital in December with a lung infection and after surgery to remove gallstones.

That was his longest stay in hospital since his release from prison in 1990 after serving almost three decades for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government.

Mr Mandela has a history of lung problems dating back to when he contracted tuberculosis as a political prisoner.

Since his release from hospital in December, he has been at his home in an affluent Johannesburg suburb.