Nelson Mandela: Anti-apartheid icon 'responding to treatment' in South African hospital

Former president has been in hospital four times for treatment since December

Nelson Mandela is "responding better" to treatment after several days in hospital, South African President Jacob Zuma says.

Mr Zuma told parliament that he is happy with the progress Mr Mandela is making "following a difficult last few days."

"We are very happy with the progress that he is now making following a difficult last few days," Mr Zuma said. "We appreciate the messages of support from all over the world."

Mr Zuma recently applauded the legacy of Mr Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists.

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

The former president spent a fifth day in the Pretoria hospital he is being treated at for a recurring lung infection. Mr Mandela has been in hospital four times for treatment since December. His last discharge came on April 6 after doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia and drained fluid from his lung area.

Mr Mandela’s relatives travelled from across the globe to be at his bedside. Mr Mandela’s wife Graca Machel cancelled an appearance in London to visit the 94-year-old , while his eldest daughter Zenani Mandela-Dlamini returned from Argentina, where she is the South African ambassador.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela also travelled to visit her ex-husband, who had been in intensive care since being taken to hospital on Saturday – his third admittance for a lung infection this year.

Mr Mandela’s granddaughters have also been seen coming and going from the hospital over the last couple of days, while another daughter Zindzi Mandela was reported as saying: “I've seen my father and he is well. He is a fighter”.

In December last year, Mr Mandela spent 18 days undergoing treatment for a lung infection and gallstones.

Before becoming South African president in 1994, Mr Mandela spent 27 years in Robben Island prison, where he contracted tuberculosis. He was freed in 1990, and then embarked on peacemaking efforts during the tense transition that saw the demise of the apartheid system and his own election as South Africa's first black president in 1994.

Today marks the 49th anniversary of the sentencing of Mr Mandela to life in prison in 1964.