Mandela is much better, says Zuma after hospital visit

Nelson Mandela in June 2010 Nelson Mandela's health has been a cause of concern for some time

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Nelson Mandela is "much better" and responding well to treatment for pneumonia, South African President Jacob Zuma has said.

He made the comments after visiting the former anti-apartheid leader in hospital on Thursday.

The 94-year-old was admitted on 27 March for a recurring lung infection. It is his fourth hospital stay in two years.

No details have been released on how much longer he will remain there.

Last week, Mr Mandela had fluid drained from his lungs at the hospital, the name of which has not been disclosed.

Mr Zuma said on Thursday the ex-president was making "continuous improvement".

"Madiba is stable and we are thankful that he is responding well to treatment and that he is much better," he said.

Mr Mandela is often fondly referred to by his clan name, Madiba.

In December, the ex-leader spent 18 days in hospital in December undergoing treatment for a lung infection and gallstones - his longest period in hospital since leaving prison in 1990.

And in February, he was treated for a stomach condition.

Mr Mandela served as South Africa's first black president from 1994 to 1999 and is regarded by many as the father of the nation for leading the struggle against apartheid.

He first contracted tuberculosis in the 1980s while detained on the windswept Robben Island where he served 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned for sabotage.

His lungs are said to have been damaged when he worked in a prison quarry.

Despite his long imprisonment, Mr Mandela forgave his former enemies and as president urged South Africans of all races to work together and seek reconciliation.

In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

His main home is in Qunu, a small rural village in Eastern Cape province, where he says he spent the happiest days of his childhood.

However, doctors said in December he should remain at his home in the Johannesburg neighbourhood of Houghton to be close to medical facilities.

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