South Africa's president Jacob Zuma has said Nelson Mandela is responding better to treatment following a "difficult few days." The 94-year-old was hospitalized on Saturday with a lung infection.
Zuma told parliament on Wednesday he was happy with Mandela's progress following his hospitalization at the weekend.
"I am happy to report that Madiba is responding better to treatment from this morning," the president said, using the anti-apartheid icon's clan name. "We are very happy with the progress that he is now making, following a difficult last few days."
Mandela, who served as South Africa's first black president from 1994 to 1999, was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on Saturday and was later said to be in a "serious, but stable condition." On Monday, a presidential spokesman said Mandela was receiving "intensive care treatment."
This is the fourth time that Mandela has had to be hospitalized since last December, prompting concerns about the 94-year-old's health. Mandela has had a history of respiratory problems since he contracted tuberculosis during his decades spent in prison - most of which were at the wind-swept Robben Island prison camp off the coast of Cape Town.
Anniversary of prison sentence
In his speech to parliament, Zuma applauded the legacy of Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists, also noting that Wednesday was the 49th anniversary of the former president's sentencing.
Mandela spent 27 years behind bars after being convicted of conspiracy to overthrow South Africa's white-minority apartheid government. South Africa's government didn't disband its official policy of apartheid - racial segregation and discrimination - until 1994.
"Our thoughts" are with Mandela and his family "on this crucial historical anniversary," Zuma said during the scheduled budget hearing.
"Because of their sacrifices and the foundation that was laid for a free and democratic South Africa, our country is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994, even though we still have so much work to do."
The president went on to offer thanks to those who have prayed for Mandela during his time in hospital.
"We appreciate the messages of support from all over the world. It is an honor for us as South Africans to share Madiba with the international community," he added.
Former President Frederik Willem de Klerk and Mandela shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, with the foundation praising the pair's "work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new, democratic South Africa."
ccp/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)