South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday said he was happy with former President Nelson Mandela’s progress, following what he called a “difficult few days” for the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero who is being treated in hospital for a recurring lung infection.
Mandela, the country’s first black president, who ruled from 1994 to 1999, was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on Saturday in a serious but stable condition, his fourth hospital stay since December.
“We understand and appreciate the global interest in this world icon,” Zuma said in a scheduled, budget-related speech to parliament. “We urge South Africans and he international community to continue to keep President Mandela and the medical team in their thoughts and prayers.”
Mandela’s condition has reinforced a creeping realisation among South Africa’s 53 million people that they will one day have to say goodbye to the father of the “Rainbow Nation” he tried to forge from the ashes of apartheid.