Nelson Mandela"s health problems are "serious" but "he is improving", says South African president


Nelson Mandela's health problems are 'serious' but 'he is improving', says South African presidentJacob Zuma described Mr Mandela as an 'unparalleled fighter' 94-year-old had previously been admitted to hospital with lung infection
Doctors say the former South African president will be kept in hospital

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UPDATED:

10:25 GMT, 21 December 2012

Nelson Mandela's condition was
serious when he was admitted to hospital 13 days ago, but the
94-year-old's health is improving, President Jacob Zuma has said.

The South African president, told
members of the ruling African National Congress at the close of a party
conference: 'His condition was serious but he is responding well to
treatment and has steadily improved over the last few days.'

Mr Mandela was airlifted on December 8
from his rural village in the south of the country to a hospital in
Pretoria for a series of tests.

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Recovering: 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

Doctors found the former president
and hero of the anti-apartheid struggle had a recurrent lung infection
and had developed gallstones.

He underwent surgery to remove the gallstones on December 15 and is still in hospital.

Mr Zuma sought to calm jitters over Mr Mandela's health.

'I have been informed that at his age
doctors need to intervene in a very gradual and sensitive way in order
to maximise the chances of a full recovery,' he said.

'Madiba [Mr Mandela's clan name] is an
unparalleled fighter and has always been so. He has met all his health
challenges with his tremendous fortitude and grace.'

The Nobel peace laureate has a long
history of lung problems dating back decades to when he contracted
tuberculosis while in jail as a political prisoner.

South African President Jacob Zuma (c) spoke about Mr Mandela's condition at the African National Congress at the party's National Conference in Bloemfontein

South African President Jacob Zuma (c) spoke about Mr Mandela's condition at the African National Congress at the party's National Conference in Bloemfontein

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

He was previously admitted to hospital
for an acute respiratory infection in January 2011, when he was kept as
an inpatient for two nights.

Mr Mandela became South Africa's first
black president after the country's first all-race elections in 1994
and stepped down after serving one term.

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 Mr 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.

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.

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

VIDEO: Mandela recovering in hospital after successful surgery

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