Former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has spent a second night in hospital with a lung infection.

The 94-year-old had been ill for several days and was in a "serious but stable condition" after being admitted to hospital, according to a statement on Saturday.

It added that the Nobel laureate, who is said to be breathing on his own, was receiving expert medical care and doctors were doing "everything possible to make him better and comfortable".

He was admitted to hospital in April for the same illness.

President Jacob Zuma, on behalf of the government and the nation, wished Madiba, Mandela's clan name, a speedy recovery and requested the media and the public to respect the privacy of the former president and his family.

Mac Maharaj, Zuma's spokesperson, told Al Jazeera that Mandela has suffered a lung infection from as far back as he was in prison.

"Because he has grown older ... it needs more careful attention. This time round he was receiving treatment at home but doctors decided the deterioration was serious to warrant immediate hospitalisation,” he said.

"So when I describe his condition as serious, I am saying what the doctors have said to me. He is frail and nobody would be prepared to predict how speedily or effectively he would recover." 

Keith Khoza, the spokesperson of the governing African National Congress, said Mandela was "in capable hands as he has always been and will pull through".

Media kept away  

Al Jazeera's Tania Page, reporting from Johannesburg, said the hospital where Mandela was receiving treatment had not been disclosed because the authorities were trying to keep the media away.

"People are aware that he is frail; that he is an elderly man [and] many people are desperate for any news really of his condition." 

Mandela, revered at home and abroad for leading the struggle against white minority rule, has been in and out of hospital for lung infection and other health problems.

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

In March and April, global figures such as US President Barack Obama sent him get-well messages and South Africans included Mandela in their Easter prayers.

Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president in 1994 and served only one term in office, was jailed on Robben Island for 27 years for resisting white minority rule. 

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies