Pray for Nelson Mandela, President Jacob Zuma tells South Africans


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The Independent Online

Nelson Mandela remains in hospital with a lung infection.

The former President’s condition was described as “serious but stable”, unchanged from the weekend, the government said.

In a two-sentence statement, President Jacob Zuma repeated his call for South Africans to pray for the ailing 94-year-old, who became the first black leader of Africa’s biggest economy after historic all-race elections in 1994. It is Mr Mandela’s fourth hospital stay since December and the use of the word “serious” to describe his condition has intensified concerns about the health of a man revered around the world as a symbol of perseverance and reconciliation.

However, among South Africa’s 53 million people there is a growing realisation they will one day have to say goodbye to “Madiba”, the clan name by which he is affectionately known. Mr Mandela has a history of lung problems dating back to his time on the wind-swept Robben Island prison camp near Cape Town.

He spent nearly three decades in prison for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government, and was finally released in 1990.

He stepped down as President in 1999 after one term in office and has been removed from politics for a decade. His last appearance in public was at the final of the football World Cup in Johannesburg in 2010.

The media has assembled in front of the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, where Mr Mandela was believed to be staying and receiving visits from family.