JOHANNESBURG – Members of former President Nelson Mandela’s family visited him at a hospital Sunday as South Africans prayed for him in churches around the country.
Mandela, revered around the world for his role in winning democratic rights and freedoms for black South Africans, was admitted to a Pretoria hospital early Saturday, suffering from a recurrence of a lung infection that struck in December. He was said to be in serious but stable condition.
Mandela, 94, has played no active role in politics for almost a decade and is not involved in decisions of the ruling African National Congress. But he remains a figure of vast symbolic importance to South Africans for his role in ending the apartheid system of legally enforced racial discrimination and ushering in a period of peaceful economic growth after the advent of black majority rule.
Many South Africans praying for Mandela’s recovery Sunday were encouraged by news that he was breathing without the help of a respirator. Official comments, however, have underscored the seriousness of this latest bout of pneumonia, given Mandela’s age and increasing frailty.
Mandela contracted tuberculosis during his 27-year imprisonment under apartheid and in recent years has battled repeated lung infections.