Mandela making good progress, doctors say

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Former South African leader Nelson Mandela looks “much better” after medical treatment and doctors are pleased with his progress, president Jacob Zuma said after visiting the anti-apartheid icon in a hospital yesterday.

Mr Zuma joined Mr Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, and other family members in wishing him a Merry Christmas at his bedside, the president’s office said.

“We found him in good spirits,” Mr Zuma said in a statement. “He was happy to have visitors on this special day and is looking much better. The doctors are happy with the progress that he is making.”

Mr Mandela was admitted on 8 December to a hospital in Pretoria. He was diagnosed with a lung infection and also had a procedure to remove gallstones. Officials have previously said Mr Mandela was improving, but said doctors were taking extra care because he is 94.

Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela’s family appreciates the support it has received from the public. “That is what keeps them going at this difficult time,” he said.

Mr Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years under apartheid, the system of white minority rule that was eventually dismantled, opening the way to South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. Mr Mandela, a Nobel laureate, served one five-year term as president before retiring.

He was brought to the Pretoria hospital from his home in Qunu, a rural village in Eastern Cape province where he lived as a child.

In the Johannesburg township of Soweto, worshippers offered prayers for Mr Mandela while attending Christmas Mass at Regina Mundi, a Catholic church that was a stronghold of anti-government sentiment during the apartheid years.

Some expressed disappointment that the former president was not well enough to return home for the holiday. 

“We wish him a Merry Christmas,” Ivy Mncube said outside the church. “We wish him well for all the days that are left for him.”