The office of South Africa’s president has announced that former leader Nelson Mandela has been taken to the hospital because of a lung infection.
A statement from President Jacob Zuma’s office said Mandela had a recurrence of the illness in the last few days and was transferred to a Pretoria hospital after his condition deteriorated at about 1.30am on Saturday.
The statement said Mandela, who is 94 years old, was in a serious but stable condition and receiving expert medical care.
The anti-apartheid leader became president in South Africa’s all-race elections in 1994. His health has been failing in recent years.
A South African government spokesman, Mac Maharaj, told reporters that the family accompanied Mandela to the hospital and remained with him there. “Former President Mandela has had this condition for many years. It first manifested itself when he was in prison. As he’s grown older we have to take into account his frailty, therefore doctors act on the matter with great caution and hospitalise him whenever they think it necessary.”
Zuma’s statement said he wished Mandela a quick recovery on behalf of the government and the nation and requested that the media and the public respect the privacy of the former leader and his family.
Mandela’s forgiving spirit and belief in racial reconciliation helped hold South Africa together at a time of extreme tension in the run up to the 1994 elections.
The Nobel peace prize laureate, who was imprisoned for 27 years by the white regime, became the first democratically elected president of South Africa in that year.