South African President Jacob Zuma has said that the health of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela "remains in a critical condition".
Speaking to journalists in Johannesburg on Monday, Zuma said that doctors were "doing everything possible" to ensure the 94-year-old's well-being and comfort on his 17th day in a hospital in capital Pretoria.
Zuma visited Mandela at the hospital on Sunday evening and was informed by the medical team that the former president's condition had become critical in the past 24 hours.
A statement by the presidency following the hospital visit said: "President Jacob Zuma, accompanied by ANC Deputy President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, visited the former President this evening, 23 June in hospital. They were briefed by the medical team who informed them that the former President's condition had become critical over the past 24 hours."
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In Sunday's statement, Zuma also discussed the government's acknowledgement a day earlier that an ambulance carrying Mandela to the Pretoria hospital two weeks ago had engine trouble, requiring the former president to be transferred to another ambulance for his journey.
Zuma said that in that incident, "all care was taken to ensure that his medical condition was not compromised".
He also dismissed media reports that Mandela had suffered a heart attack, saying: "There is no truth at all in that report''.
Al Jazeera's Tania Page, reporting from Johannesburg, said that while people in South Africa were very conscious that Mandela was frail, many said they still loved him and needed him.
"People are getting used to the idea that one day, perhaps soon, he will not be with them. It won't be a surprise that his condition has deteriotated ... But [his death] will nonetheless still come as a shock to South Africans," she said.
Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president after the end of apartheid in 1994, was hospitalised on June 8 for what the government said was a recurring lung infection.
Thoughts and prayers
Caitlin Hayden, US National Security Council spokesperson at the White House, said that America's thoughts and prayers were with the people of South Africa.
"We have seen the latest reports from the South African Government that former President Mandela is in critical condition," she said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and the people of South Africa."
A day earlier, the anti-apartheid icon's grandson Mandla Mandela, said his grandfather was getting better and was expected to be discharged from hospital soon.
Family members have been seen making daily visits to the hospital where Mandela is being treated.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies