Obama 'deeply concerned' for Mandela
WASHINGTON/JOHANNESBURG - Agence France-Presse
In this file photo taken July 18, 2004, former South African President Nelson Mandela, center, is flanked by his wife Graca Machel, left, and his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, right, on his 86th birthday party in, Qunu, South Africa. Madikizela-Mandela is back in the spotlight as investigators re-open moldering murder dockets about the fate of two young activists last seen at her home 24 years ago. AP Photo/Debbie Yazbek-Star-fileUS President Barack Obama said March 28 he was "deeply concerned" for the health of Nelson Mandela, after the former South African president was again admitted to hospital.
"We are deeply concerned with Nelson Mandela's health -- he is a hero, I think, to all of us," Obama said as he met four leaders from sub-Saharan Africa at the White House.
"We will be keeping him in our thoughts and prayers, and his entire family," Obama said.
"He is as strong physically as he has been in character and in leadership over so many decades. Hopefully he will come out of this latest challenge." Mandela was readmitted to hospital with a recurrent lung infection
The 94-year-old, who has had several recent health scares, was hospitalised "due to the recurrence of his lung infection" just before midnight on March 27, President Jacob Zuma's office said in a statement.
"He was conscious" when he was admitted, presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj told AFP.
It marks the second time this month that the Nobel peace laureate has spent the night in hospital and follows a nearly three-week stay in December for the lung infection and for gallstone surgery, after which he was released for home-based care.
The hospital stay earlier this month was for a scheduled medical checkup.
"Doctors are attending to him, ensuring that he has the best possible expert medical treatment and comfort," the presidency said.
Zuma wished "Madiba", as South Africa's first black president is affectionately known, a quick recovery and asked for people around the world to pray for him.
"We appeal to the people of South Africa and the world to pray for our beloved Madiba and his family and to keep them in their thoughts," he said.
"We have full confidence in the medical team and know that they will do everything possible to ensure recovery." Mandela is adored in South Africa where he is seen as the symbol of the country's peaceful shift to democracy after apartheid.
He has not appeared in public since South Africa's football World Cup final in 2010, six years after retiring.
The ruling African National Congress, the once-banned liberation movement that Mandela led into power, also called for prayers for the beloved former leader.
"During these trying times we wish President Mandela well and for his family to be strong," the party said in a statement.
"We are confident that the treatment will be successful as he is in professional and competent hands," it added.
Hometown villagers 'wish him long life'
The name and location of the hospital were not disclosed, to allow the medical team to focus on their work and to shield the family from the intense media interest.
"We know they are going through a difficult time and we want to ensure that their privacy is maintained," Maharaj said.
Any updates will be based on reports from Mandela's medical team, he said. "I will be guided by the doctors." Revered at home and abroad, the ailing Mandela has grown increasingly frail away from the public eye.
Mandela's December hospital stay was his longest since he walked free from 27 years of apartheid jail in 1990.
Early last year, he was admitted for a minor exploratory procedure to investigate persistent abdominal pain.
Diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988 while imprisoned during the apartheid era, Mandela has long had problems with his lungs.
In 2011, he was hospitalised for two nights for an unnamed acute respiratory infection.