Nelson Mandela

An ailing Mandela is making steady progress, South African officials say

Anti-apartheid icon is responding well to treatment, says president's office

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 4:48am

Nelson Mandela stayed in hospital for a fourth day yesterday after South African officials said he was making steady progress following treatment for a recurrence of pneumonia.

The frail 94-year-old, one of the towering figures of modern history, was admitted on Wednesday for his third hospitalisation in four months.

Doctors drained a build-up of fluid, known as a pleural effusion or "water on the lungs", that had developed from Mandela's lung infection.

President Jacob Zuma's spokesman yesterday said he did not have another update on the anti-apartheid icon's health, as he awaited a report from the doctors. "I have said he is responding [to treatment], making steady progress," he said.

It was unclear how long South Africa's first black president would remain in hospital.

Mandela's recent health woes have triggered an outpouring of prayers but have also seen South Africans come to terms with the mortality of the revered Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Yesterday Christians celebrated Easter Sunday offering prayers for Mandela.

"Yes, we are concerned that he is ailing, and he is getting worse, naturally we should be concerned. I think this is the question in the back of many of our minds, when is the end? Is he going to die?" Father Sebastian Rossouw, an assistant parish priest at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in a Soweto township, told parishioners.

"We should rather celebrate what he stood for, and what he continues to stand for, that he has been an icon of peace, an icon of service."

The Regina Mundi church was once a pivotal centre in the resistance against apartheid, offering shelter to activists.

Mandela is idolised at home, where he is seen as the architect of South Africa's peaceful transition from white minority-ruled police state to a democracy filled with hope.

Nearly 20 years after he came to power in 1994, Mandela remains a unifying symbol in a country still riven by racial tensions and deep inequality.

It is the second time this month that Mandela has been admitted to hospital, after spending a night for check-ups on March 9. That followed a nearly three-week hospital stay in December for another lung infection and gallstone surgery, his longest since he walked free from jail in 1990.

He was diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988 during his 27-year jail term and has long had problems with his lungs. He has also had treatment for prostate cancer and has suffered stomach ailments.

While Mandela's legacy continues to loom large, he has long since exited the political stage and is seen by South Africa's youthful population as a figure from another era.