Mandela responding to treatment, says Zuma's office
A recurring respiratory infection is the cause of former South African president Nelson Mandela’s stay in hospital, the president’s office has confirmed in an effort to quell mounting speculation about his health.
Mr Mandela (94), a Nobel Peace Prize winner adored by most South Africans for holding a fractured nation together during its transition to democracy in the mid-1990s, has had the country on tenterhooks since being admitted to hospital four days ago, such is the concern over his health. He was rushed to hospital in Pretoria on Saturday from his rural homestead in Qunu, a village the Eastern Cape province, which he retired to in 2004.
This is the second time this year that Mr Mandela has been admitted to hospital. In February he was also kept in for a number of days for a minor abdominal complaint before being released into the care of his team of doctors.
Initial reports from the weekend quoted people from his village as saying Mr Mandela looked very unwell when leaving his home for hospital, which led to speculation that he was seriously ill. However, yesterday the professional prognosis proved more upbeat.
“Doctors have concluded the tests and these have revealed a recurrence of a previous lung infection, for which Madiba [Mandela’s clan name] is receiving appropriate treatment and he is responding to the treatment,” the presidency said.
“President Zuma thanks the public for continuous support to former president Mandela and his family at this time.”
According to medical experts, respiratory illnesses are common among elderly people and, while they should be taken seriously they are rarely fatal.
During his 27-year incarceration for his anti-apartheid activities, Mr Mandela worked in a limestone quarry for 13 years on Robben Island off Cape Town. This may also have adversely affected his health in later life.
Such is the level of interest across the globe in Mr Mandela that on Monday, media outlets from around the world began to run old news clips of the liberation hero, and pre-recorded interviews with his closest family members.
His wife, Mozambican Graca Michel, gave an interview to South Africa’s independent broadcaster ENCA in 2009 in which she talked openly about her husband’s ageing and how it was affecting those close to him. “To see him ageing ... it pains you. You understand and you know it has to happen ... The spirit and the sparkle, you see that somehow it’s fading,” she said in the interview aired on Monday.
The Washington Post included a CBS newsclip in which their reporter described him as having been “physically robust” but “mentally detached” at his 94th birthday celebration which they attended.
In January 2011, Mr Mandela also had the country on edge when he spent two nights in hospital for an acute respiratory infection. He has had other health problems. He contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison and 11 years ago, he underwent radiation therapy for prostate cancer.