Nelson Mandela has “recovered” from recent surgery and a lung infection, a health scare that had put South Africa on edge as the anti-apartheid hero spent nearly three weeks in hospital, the presidency said Sunday, citing his doctors.
The 94-year-old Mandela “has recovered from his surgical procedure and the lung infection, his doctors said today,” said a statement from President Jacob Zuma’s office.
“The medical (examination) said president Mandela has made steady progress and that clinically, he continues to improve,” it said.
The revered leader has been recuperating at his Johannesburg home since he was discharged from hospital the day after Christmas, which was the longest he had been hospitalised since his release from 27 years of apartheid prison in 1990.
“He had undergone an operation to remove gallstones last month and was also troubled by a recurring lung infection,” said the presidency.
“He continues to receive high care at his Houghton home and his daily routine is being gradually re-established.”
On Thursday, Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela told AFP that South Africa’s first black president who steered the country into democracy “is healed and is stronger than before”.
The former statesman was flown to a Pretoria hospital on December 8 from his childhood home in Qunu, prompting an outpouring of prayers and wishes for his health.
“President Zuma extended good wishes to Madiba on his recovery and once again assured him of the love and support of all South Africans,” the presidency said, referring to Mandela by his clan name as he is affectionately known.
After winning historic all-race elections in 1994 and serving one term as president, Mandela stepped away from politics, but is still revered as the symbol of South Africa’s peaceful shift into democracy after decades of racist white minority rule.
While his stature looms large at home and abroad, Mandela the man has grown increasingly frail in recent years, choosing to retire to his home village in the rural Eastern Cape.
Mandela has a long history of lung problems, dating back to the time when he was an apartheid political prisoner on Robben Island. While in jail he contracted tuberculosis — a disease which killed his father.
In January 2011 he set the nation at edge when he was hospitalised for two nights for an acute respiratory infection.
Early last year, he also spent the night in hospital after receiving a minor exploratory procedure to investigate persistent abdominal pain.
Mandela was last seen in public in 2010, clad in a scarf during the closing ceremony of the FIFA World Cup.
He stepped down from office in 1999 and took up a new role as a leading campaigner against AIDS before finally retiring from public life in 2004.