Nelson Mandela undergoes successful operation to remove gallstones

Nelson Mandela undergoes successful operation to remove gallstones as he recovers from lung infection
94-year-old had previously been admitted to hospital with lung infection
Wife Graca Machel told reporters husband had been 'fading'Spokesman said that Mr Mandela is now 'recovering'

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UPDATED:

20:52 GMT, 15 December 2012

Nelson Mandela is recovering from an operation to remove gallstones, carried out in a private clinic in Pretoria

Recovering: Nelson Mandela is recovering from an operation to remove gallstones, carried out in a private clinic in Pretoria

Nelson Mandela is recovering in hospital after having an operation to remove gallstones.

The 94-year-old, who was South Africa's first black president, underwent the surgery at a private clinic in Pretoria.

He had previously been hospitalised last Saturday, suffering from a lung infection.

South Africans have been worried about
Mr Mandela's health since he was airlifted to the clinic from his home
in Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

While in hospital, tests revealed the
presence of gallstones and it was decided the operation would be carried
out after he had recovered.

A government statement said: 'This
morning, 15 December 2012, the former president underwent a procedure
via endoscopy to have the gall stones removed. The procedure was
successful and (Mr Mandela) is recovering.'

Gallstones are an accumulation of
crystals in the gall bladder. The condition can become life-threatening
because of the risks of secondary infections such as pancreatitis.

Mr Madela's wife previously caused concern when she said his trademark 'spirit and sparkle' was waning.

Graca Machel told a South African television news channel that it was painful to see her 94-year-old husband 'fading.'

'I mean, this spirit and this sparkle, you see that somehow it's fading,' she told eNews Central Africa.

Mr Mandela's grand-daughter Ndileka told the same news channel that the anti-apartheid icon has come to accept his condition.

'He has come to accept that it's part of growing old, and it's part of humanity as such', she said.

'At some point you will dependent on someone else, he has come to embrace it'.

Mr Mandela made his last public appearance alongside his wife Graca Machel at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium during the closing ceremony for the 2010 World Cup

Smiling: Mr Mandela made his last public appearance alongside his wife Graca Machel at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium during the closing ceremony for the 2010 World Cup

The pair's comments were the first official remarks by his family since the former President was rushed to hospital.

The anti-apartheid leader is particularly susceptible to illness because of his age and his 27 years in prison, though medics say he is responding well to treatment.

He fought off a similar lung infection in 2011 and once contracted tuberculosis while imprisoned.

Medical experts say respiratory
illnesses like pneumonia striking a man his age are a serious matter
that require care and monitoring.

His ongoing hospitalisation
has caused growing concern in South Africa, a nation of 50 million
people that largely reveres him for being the nation's first
democratically elected president who sought to bring the country
together after centuries of racial division.

Tests at 1
Military Hospital near South Africa's capital, Pretoria, detected the
lung infection, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj previously said in a statement.

Public concern: Broadcast vans are parked near the 1 Military Hospital where South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela is hospitalised

Public concern: Broadcast vans parked near the 1 Military Hospital where South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela is hospitalised

Security: South African military police officers check cars entering the 1 Military Hospital. Nelson Mandela has a lung infection but is responding to treatment, the South African government said today

Security: South African military police officers check cars entering the 1 Military Hospital

'Madiba is receiving appropriate
treatment and he is responding to the treatment,' Maharaj said,
referring to Mr Mandela by his clan name as many do in South Africa as a
sign of affection.

In January 2011, Mr Mandela was
admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially
described as tests but what turned out to be an acute respiratory
infection.

The chaos that followed his stay at
that public hospital, with journalists and members of the public surrounding it
and entering wards, saw the South African military take charge of his
care and the government control the information about his health.

In recent days many in the press and
public have complained about the lack of concrete details that the
government has released about the former president's condition.

They had not divulged why he had been
flown over 500 miles from his rural home to undergo the urgent tests
prompting many to fear the worst.

Over the weekend the South African
Sunday Times newspaper quoted a source as saying 'he has not been
talking. He is not looking good'.

The country's defence
minister visited the Nobel Peace Prize winner at the Pretoria military
hospital in which he is being treated.

Afterwards Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula
echoed the official, placatory message, telling reporters that Mr
Mandela was 'doing very, very well'.

Rallying round: Worshippers pray at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto. Calls for prayer have been made for former president Nelson Mandela

Rallying round: Worshippers pray at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto. Calls for prayer have been made for former president Nelson Mandela

Bated breath: The nation has been eagerly awaiting news of his condition

Bated breath: The nation has been eagerly awaiting news of his condition

She added: 'It is important to keep
him in our prayers and also to be as calm as possible and not cause a
state of panic because I think that is not what all of us need.'

Mr Mandela has a history with lung
problems. He fell ill with tuberculosis in 1988 toward the tail-end of
his prison years, after he had been moved from the notorious Robben
Island and to another jail to ease the apartheid government's efforts to
negotiate with him about a possible release.

After being taken to a Cape Town hospital, a doctor told him he had water in his lungs.

Mr Mandela initially refused to believe the doctor, he wrote in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom.

‘With a hint of annoyance, (the
doctor) said, “Mandela, take a look at your chest,”’ Mr Mandela
recounted. ‘He pointed out that one side of my chest was actually larger
than the other.’

Surgeons immediately cut into his
chest and removed two litres (half a gallon) of liquid from his lungs,
which tested positive for tuberculosis.

Doctors at the time suggested Mr Mandela contracted the disease from his damp prison cell.

About 1.4 million people worldwide
die each year from tuberculosis, a bacterial infection which can stay
dormant for years. It also can cause permanent lung damage, though in
his autobiography Mr Mandela says doctors caught it in time.

Hillary Clinton meets Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel in South Africa
Relations: Mr Mandela's last foreign visitor is believed to have been US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had lunch with him and his wife, Graca Machel, at their Qunu home in August

However, tuberculosis can return to
trouble those previously infected, properly treated or not, and previous
damage could have been missed, Openshaw said.

Openshaw, who has not seen Mr
Mandela's medical records and spoke generally about treating patients,
said pneumonia is the most likely respiratory illness to affect an
elderly person, though others can strike as well.

Mr Mandela was a leader in the
struggle against racist white rule in South Africa and once he emerged
from 27 years in prison in 1990, he won worldwide acclaim for urging
reconciliation.

He won South Africa's first truly
democratic elections in 1994, serving one five-year term. The Nobel
laureate later retired from public life to live in his remote village of
Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, and last made a public appearance when his
country hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.

Mr Mandela disengaged himself from
the country's politics over the last decade but continued campaigning
against AIDS. He has grown increasing frail in recent years.

He went seven weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer in 2001, ultimately beating the disease.

In February he underwent minor surgery to determine the cause of abdominal pain.
Mr Mandela's last foreign visitor is believed to have been US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton, who had lunch with him and his wife, Graca
Machel, at their Qunu home in August.

In 2011 Mr Mandela's close friend Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu described him as being 'frail'.

The churchman said: 'We want him to remain forever, but you know… anything can happen.'