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South Africa says Mandela 'in good spirits'

President's office says 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon making steady progress after spending second night in hospital.

Last Modified: 29 Mar 2013 12:26
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In churches across South Africa, Christians included Mandela in their prayers on Good Friday [Reuters]

Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, has made steady progress and is "in good spirits" after spending a second night in hospital under treatment for a lung infection, the country's government has said.

The news came as a relief to South Africans who were anxiously praying and waiting for an update on the health of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid legend, who was undergoing his third hospital treatment in four months.

"The Presidency wishes to advise that former President Nelson Mandela is in good spirits and enjoyed a full breakfast this morning," President Jacob Zuma's office said in a statement on Friday.

"The doctors report that he is making steady progress. He remains under treatment and observation in hospital," the
statement added.

Zuma's government had said previously that Mandela, country's first black president, was responding well to treatment after he was admitted to hospital before midnight on Wednesday.

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Zuma had sought to reassure the nation about his health.

Global leaders sent best wishes for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and in churches across South Africa, Christians
included him in their prayers on Good Friday.

"I hope this time God will have mercy on him to give him the strength and courage to continue to be an icon for our country," Father Benedict Mahlangu said at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church as it held services in the Soweto township outside Johannesburg where Mandela once lived.

Mandela became president after winning the country's first all-race election in 1994.

A former lawyer, he is revered at home and abroad for leading the struggle against white minority rule - including
spending 27 years in prison on Robben Island - and then promoting the cause of racial reconciliation.

Best wishes

Barack Obama, the US president, sent his best wishes to the democracy icon.

"He is as strong physically as he's been in character and in leadership over so many decades, and hopefully he will ... come out of this latest challenge," Obama told reporters at the White House.

"When you think of a single individual that embodies the kind of leadership qualities that I think we all aspire to, the first name that comes up is Nelson Mandela. And so we wish him all the very best," Obama said.

The series of hospitalisations has seen an outpouring of prayers, but has also seen South Africans come to terms with the mortality of their national hero.

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from Johannesburg, said many South Africans were concerned about Mandela's health.

"There is a lot activity on social media - Facebook and Twitter. Many people wishing him well, hoping that he will soon be discharged," Mutasa said. 

"Most South Africans understand the fact that he is an old man, and that he will go in and out of hospital more often than not. There isn't a sense of panic right now."

Mandela spent a night in a hospital and was released on March 10 following a medical test. At that time, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said the former president was "well".

In December, Mandela spent three weeks in a hospital, where he was treated for a lung infection and had a procedure to remove gallstones.

A year ago, Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection.

He was discharged days later. He also had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985.

Mandela is idolised in his home nation, where he is seen as the architect of the country's peaceful transition from apartheid state to democracy despite fears of much greater bloodshed.

He served one five-year term as president before retiring.

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Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
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