There was widespread concern saturday as former South African president Nelson Mandela went back to the hospital. His country’s government through presidential spokesman, Mac Maharaj, said his medical condition was serious this time.
The 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero and the country's first black president was taken to hospital early saturday for a recurring lung infection. "The situation is serious this time but doctors have assured us he is comfortable," Maharaj told television station eNCA.
Maharaj, however, said that the anti-apartheid icon is breathing on his own.
Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, is at the hospital with him. She canceled her plans to attend the Hunger Summit in London.
South Africa's first black president gets round-the-clock care, and his house is retrofitted with medical equipment that mirrors that of an intensive care unit.
Mandela, has become increa-singly frail over the years and has not appeared in public since South Africa hosted the World Cup in 2010. Despite his rare public appearances, news of his ailment spark concerns worldwide.
"I think the concern, the anxiety shown by people throughout the world and South Africa is perfectly understandable," Maharaj said. "I think it is also true simultaneously that people have come to terms with his age. The most important thing is that we should realize that this is a life that we need to celebrate, even when he's with us. And we will celebrate it, even when he is not with us."
This is the fourth hospital stay in seven months for Mandela, who turns 95 next month. His history of lung problems dates to when he was a political prisoner on Robben Island, South Africa during apartheid, and he has battled respiratory infections over the years.
Last year, he spent Christmas holidays undergoing treatment for a lung infection and gallstones, one of his longest hospital stays since his release from prison in 1990.
Despite rare public appearances in recent years, Mandela retains his popularity and is considered a hero of democracy in South Africa. Last year, the country launched a new batch of banknotes with a picture of a smiling Mandela on the front, a testament to his iconic status.
Meanwhile the White House sent good wishes yesterday to Mandela. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and the people of South Africa as he recovers," US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
President Barack Obama, who has often called Mandela an inspirational figure, was concluding two days of informal talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in California.