(Photo: Reuters / Charles Dharapak)
Former South African President Nelson Mandela is in the hospital for the third time this year. The Pretoria hospital, where he is admitted for lung infection treatment, said the nearly 95-year-old anti-apartheid hero is "serious but stable."
The Nobel peace laureate, who was taken to hospital early Saturday, is "a fighter and at his age as long as he is fighting, he'll be fine," presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj told Agence France Presse.
Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, cancelled her planned visit to London so that she could be with her husband in the hospital in Pretoria. She was to address a hunger summit in London on Thursday.
Mandela, who won the nation's first all-race elections in 1994 that marked the end of apartheid, is suffering from pneumonia once again. He was hospitalized, and subsequently discharged, in April for the same condition.
"His condition deteriorated to the point where it was found necessary to hospitalize him," Maharaj said. "But I am told by the doctors that he is breathing on his own, so I think that is a positive side." He is "able to breathe on his own."
"Whereas in the beginning we would get extremely anxious, this time our anxiety is tempered with a certain understanding of his age and his frailty. It's a good healthy balance," Maharaj added.
Mandela, who served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, is "receiving expert medical care and doctors are doing everything possible to make him better and comfortable," according to President Jacob Zuma's office.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) urged South African people to pray for "our beloved statesman and icon, Madiba (Mandela's clan name)."
Mandela has received good wishes from the United States. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and the people of South Africa as he recovers," U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, hundreds gathered at the landmark Regina Mundi church in Soweto, Johannesburg, to pray for Mandela's recovery at Sunday Mass. The Roman Catholic church was a place of gathering for the people of Soweto before, during and after the anti-apartheid struggle.
Sky News quoted a Soweto resident, Mlugisi Sekhosana, as saying, "We wish him speedy recovery, he must get well. We know what he did for us in South Africa. All the nation, black and white, we wish him well."
During his years in prison, Mandela contracted tuberculosis and had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985. In 2001, Mandela underwent seven weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer, ultimately beating the disease.