FORMER president Nelson Mandela’s condition remained “unchanged” on Monday morning, the Presidency said in a short statement.
“President Jacob Zuma reiterates his call for South Africa to pray for Madiba and the family during this time,” the Presidency said.
This was the first update in more than 48 hours since the Presidency announced on Saturday morning that he was in a “serious but stable” condition after being admitted to a Pretoria hospital in the early hours of that morning.
The renewed lung infection has triggered worldwide concern for the former president. Mr Mandela, who turns 95 next month, was whisked to a Pretoria hospital in the early hours of Saturday for his fourth hospital stay in seven months.
“The truth of the matter is a simple one. Madiba is a fighter and at his age as long as he is fighting, he’ll be fine,” Presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said, adding that Mr Mandela was once again suffering from pneumonia, for which he was also treated in April this year.
Mr Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, was at his bedside after calling off a trip to London.
“His condition deteriorated to the point where it was found necessary to hospitalise him,” Mr Maharaj said. “But I am told by the doctors that he is breathing on his own, so I think that is a positive side.”
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was seen leaving the hospital on Saturday afternoon, reportedly for a medical appointment. “He was there to see a doctor,” a hospital spokesman said.
The African National Congress called for people at home and abroad to keep “our beloved statesman and icon, Madiba” in their thoughts and prayers.
“My thoughts are with Nelson Mandela, who is in hospital in South Africa,” tweeted British Prime Minister David Cameron, while the White House also sent good wishes.
Mr Mandela had been receiving care at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, when his lung problems returned. He was diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988 and has had treatment for prostate cancer and stomach ailments.
On April 6 this year, Mr Mandela was discharged from hospital after spending nine days receiving treatment for his lung problems. Early in March, he was admitted to a Pretoria hospital for a scheduled check-up and was discharged the following day.
Four months before that, in December, he was in hospital for 18 days as he underwent an operation to remove gallstones and treat a lung infection. The Presidency said in January that Mr Mandela had made a full recovery from the surgery.
In February last year he was admitted to hospital for a stomach ailment. At the time, the Presidency said Mr Mandela underwent a diagnostic procedure to investigate a long-standing abdominal complaint.
Mr Maharaj, who served time with Mr Mandela on apartheid’s Robben Island jail, on Saturday said it was good to worry about the anti-apartheid icon but there was no need “to get overworked”, adding: “Whereas in the beginning we would get extremely anxious, this time our anxiety is tempered with a certain understanding of his age and his frailty. It’s a good, healthy balance.”
In an interview with The Associated Press last month, his eldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, said he did not talk much any more but reached out in another way.
“It’s the hand that he stretches out. It is the touching of the hand that speaks volumes for me. And for me, if you ask me what I would treasure, it is this moment that I treasure with my father,” she said. “It means, ‘My child, I’m here.’ It means to me that, ‘I’m here. I love you. I care.’”
Ms Mandela, the oldest of Mr Mandela’s three surviving children, added: “My dad has not been in good, perfect health over the past month. And he has good days and he has bad days.”
One of those bad days was April 29, when state television broadcast footage of a visit by Mr Zuma and other leaders of the African National Congress to Mr Mandela, at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg.
Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela was in good shape, but the footage — the first public images of the former president in nearly a year — showed him silent and unresponsive, even when Mr Zuma tried to hold his hand.
Ms Mandela also said the “dignity and privacy” of her father was sometimes under threat, complaining that 20 journalists one day in May converged on his home after an ambulance left to fetch medicine from a hospital.
The former president’s last major public appearance was in July 2010, at the final of the Fifa World Cup at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. Since then he had spent his time between Johannesburg and his ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
With Sapa, Sapa-AFP, Sapa-AP