Nelson Mandela 'responding better to treatment' - Zuma

Mr Mandela has been in intensive care since he was taken to hospital on Saturday for the third time this year

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South Africa's first black President Nelson Mandela is "responding better" to treatment in hospital, President Jacob Zuma has said.

Mr Zuma told parliament he was happy with the progress being made by Mr Mandela after a "difficult few days".

The 94 year old is spending his fifth day in a Pretoria hospital suffering from a recurrent lung infection.

Mr Mandela's wife Graca Machel, his daughter and two granddaughters visited Mr Mandela on Wednesday.

His family released a statement saying they had "been deeply touched" by the concern shown for Mr Mandela's health.

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Mr Mandela's failing health is an intensely personal issue for many of those now involved in the distressing task of managing the flow of information from a Pretoria hospital bed, to a waiting world”

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"The family have been heartened by the overwhelming messages of support from the public," the statement said.

Mr Zuma noted that Wednesday was the 49th anniversary of Mr Mandela's being sentenced to life in prison under the apartheid regime.

"Our country is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994 [when Mr Mandela was elected], even though we still have so much work to do," he said.

"We fully understand and appreciate the global interest in this world icon. We are so proud to call him our own," he added.

"We urge South Africans and the international community to continue to keep President Mandela and the medical team in their thoughts and prayers," he went on.

On Tuesday Mr Zuma had described Mr Mandela's condition as "very serious but stabilised".

Nelson Mandela: Key dates

Nelson Mandela in June 2010
  • 1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
  • 1943 Joins African National Congress
  • 1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped
  • 1962 Arrested, convicted of sabotage, sentenced to five years in prison
  • 1964 Charged again, sentenced to life
  • 1990 Freed from prison
  • 1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1994 Elected first black president
  • 1999 Steps down as leader
  • 2004 Retires from public life
  • 2010 Last public appearance - at World Cup finals

Mr Zuma said the doctors were doing a "very good job", adding that the former president was a "good fighter".

His ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and other relatives visited the ailing former leader on Tuesday.

Mr Mandela has been in intensive care since he was taken to hospital on Saturday for the third time this year.

In December, he spent 18 days undergoing treatment for a lung infection and gallstones.

Before being admitted to hospital, Mr Mandela had been ill for some days at his Johannesburg home, with a recurrence of his long-standing lung problems, said a statement from the president's office on Tuesday.

He was taken to hospital when his condition worsened at 01:30 on Saturday (23:30 GMT Friday).

Widely referred to by his clan name Madiba, Nelson Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999.

He was previously imprisoned for 27 years, and is believed to have suffered damage to his lungs while working in a prison quarry.

He contracted tuberculosis in the 1980s while being held in jail on the windswept Robben Island.

He retired from public life in 2004 and has been rarely seen at official events since.

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