x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Mandela 'in good spirits' as his recovery continues

South Africa's 94-year-old former president making steady progress after treatment for lung infection.

SOWETO, SOUTH AFRICA // The former South African president, Nelson Mandela, had made steady progress and was "in good spirits" after spending a second night in hospital receiving treatment for a lung infection, the country's government said yesterday.

The news came as a relief to South Africans who had been anxiously praying and waiting for an update on the health of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero after he was taken to hospital for the third time in four months.

"The presidency wishes to advise that former president, Nelson Mandela, is in good spirits and enjoyed a full breakfast this morning," said the office of the president Jacob Zuma.

"The doctors report that he is making steady progress. He remains under treatment and observation in hospital."

Doctors were acting with extreme caution because of Mr Mandela's age, the statement added.

Global leaders have been sending their best wishes for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and in churches across South Africa, Christians yesterday included him in their Good Friday prayers.

"I hope this time God will have mercy on him to give him the strength and courage to continue to be an icon for our country," said Father Benedict Mahlangu at the Regina Mundi Catholic church as it held services in the Soweto township outside Johannesburg where Mr Mandela once lived.

Mr Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994.

A former lawyer, he is revered at home and abroad for leading the struggle against white minority rule - including spending 27 years in prison - and then promoting the cause of racial reconciliation.

He has been particularly vulnerable to respiratory problems because he contracted tuberculosis during his imprisonment.

The US president, Barack Obama, on Thursday sent his thoughts and prayers to Mr Mandela, describing him as a hero and an inspiration who gave everything to his people.

* Reuters, with additional reporting by Associated Press