Nelson Mandela remains in a "stable but critical" condition more than two months after doctors treating him for a lung infection sent him home to recover, the South African government said.

The latest update on the anti-apartheid icon's health came after President Jacob Zuma visited Mandela at his home Monday.

"The health of the former president remains much the same," the government said in a statement, noting "he continues to recover."

Monday's statement was the first since September.

The former South African president was still "quite ill" and unable to speak because of tubes being used to clear fluid from his lungs, ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told the Sunday Independent newspaper.

"He remains very sensitive to any germs, so he has to be kept literally sterile. The bedroom there is like an ICU ward," she told the newspaper this week.

Mandela was receiving round-the-clock treatment from 22 doctors and using facial gestures to communicate, Madikizela-Mandela said, adding medics were hopeful he would recover his voice.

Global outpouring

Mandela, who spent 27 years in apartheid jails before becoming South Africa's first black president in 1994, has faced several health scares.

His imprisonment included 18 years on the notorious Robben Island penal colony, when he and other prisoners were forced to work in a limestone quarry and he first suffered the lung infections that would persist for years.

The anti-apartheid leader spent more than 80 days in a Pretoria hospital before returning to his Johannesburg family home on September 1.

Mandela, 95, made his last public appearance waving to fans from the back of a golf cart before the Soccer World Cup final in Johannesburg in 2010.

In April, the state broadcaster aired a clip of the thin and frail former president being visited by Zuma and top officials from the African National Congress.

A globally admired figure for steering South Africa peacefully into democracy, Mandela has received outpourings of goodwill from around the world.

The South African government said Zuma had conveyed to Mandela the well wishes of his countrymen and of leaders who attended a recent Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka.

Source: Agencies