Nelson Mandela improvement 'continues'

A picture taken on 18 July 2013 shows a portrait of former South African President Nelson Mandela outside the Medi Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa
Image caption Nelson Mandela's illness has caused widespread anxiety

South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela, who has been in hospital since 8 June with a recurring lung infection, "continues to show improvement", a government statement says.

But the 95-year-old remains in a critical if stable condition, it said.

President Jacob Zuma urged people to continue to pray for him and thanked those who did good works in his name.

The country's first democratically elected leader, Mr Mandela is considered the father of the nation.

He spent 27 years in prison after taking up arms to fight against the apartheid regime.

Known by his clan name Madiba, he became South Africa's president in 1994 after white minority rule ended and stepped down five years later.

In his statement, Mr Zuma called on those in the business community to support a project by one of Mr Mandela's funds to build a children's hospital.

"Madiba loves children and wants the best for them. He wants us to ensure that they have a better future," he said.

According to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, it would like to build a 238-bed academic and paediatric referral facility to serve children across southern Africa.

"The hospital will be one of the most inspiring legacies of this remarkable statesman and leader of our people, and we humbly invite all sectors to actively support this project," Mr Zuma said.

Since his admission into the private Medi Clinic Heart Hospital in the capital, Pretoria, thousands of tributes and get-well messages have left outside for Mr Mandela.

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