JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Nelson Mandela was set to spend his sixth night in hospital Tuesday with no apparent change in the condition of the frail anti-apartheid icon suffering from a new bout of pneumonia.
President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj could offer no new update on the health of the country’s first black president, now 94.
“What I said yesterday stands as the operative report,” he told AFP.
On Monday the South African presidency reported “no significant change” since late Sunday when doctors had reported “a further improvement” in the former president and Nobel peace laureate’s condition.
Doctors last week drained excess fluid that had built up on the lining of Mandela’s lungs because of infection.
The procedure, described as the tapping of a pleural effusion, has helped him breathe without difficulty, Zuma’s office said.
Pleural effusion is the accumulation of water between the lining covering the lung and that of the chest wall, and is one of the complications of pneumonia, experts say.
Pneumonia normally takes one to three weeks to treat, but in elderly patients it can stretch to twice that time, according to South African pulmonologist David Pansegrouw.
While it is easy to treat, he warns: “You can’t take it too lightly, especially with somebody of (Mandela’s) age.”
South Africa’s revered first black president was admitted to an undisclosed hospital shortly before midnight Wednesday for his third hospital stint in four months.
It remains unclear how long he may stay.
In December last year, he was in hospital for 18 days for treatment for a lung infection and gallstones surgery, his longest admission since he walked free from jail in 1990.
Mandela has had a history of lung problems since being diagnosed with early-stage tuberculosis in 1988 during his 27-year jail term.
He has also had treatment for prostate cancer and has suffered stomach ailments.
Mandela’s latest health troubles have prompted an outpouring of prayers and good wishes from around the world.
Mandela’s family “appreciate the support they have been receiving from the public,” Zuma’s office said.
His latest hospitalisation has also caused many South Africans to begin to come to terms with the mortality of the father of the “Rainbow Nation”.
At home and abroad, Mandela is idolised as the architect of South Africa’s peaceful transition from white-ruled police state to hope-filled democracy, a unifying symbol in a country still riven by racial tensions and deep inequality.
After leading his African National Congress to victory in the first multi-racial elections in 1994, Mandela served a single five-year term as president before taking up a new role as a roving elder statesman and leading campaigner against AIDS.
He retired from public life in 2004 and has not appeared in public since July 2010, when he was at the Soccer City stadium in Soweto for the World Cup final.
It is the second time that Mandela has been hospitalised in less than a month, after spending a night for check-ups on March 9.