JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Former South African President Nelson Mandela is suffering from a recurring lung infection and is responding to medical treatments, the nation’s presidency said Tuesday.
The announcement ended speculation about what was troubling the anti-apartheid icon. Government officials had declined repeatedly to say what caused the nation’s military, responsible for Mr. Mandela‘s care, to hospitalize the leader over the past few days. That caused growing concern in South Africa, a nation of 50 million people that largely reveres Mr. Mandela for being the nation’s first democratically elected president who sought to bring the country together after centuries of racial division.
The tests Mr. Mandela underwent at the hospital detected the lung infection, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
In January 2011, Mr. Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection. The chaos that followed Mr. Mandela‘s stay at that public hospital, with journalists and the curious surrounding it and entering wards, saw the South African military take charge of his care and the government control the information about his health. In recent days, many in the press and public have complained about the lack of concrete details that the government has released about Mr. Mandela‘s condition.
Mr. Mandela has had a series of health problems in his life. He contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison and had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985. In 2001, Mr. Mandela underwent seven weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer, ultimately beating the disease.
In February, Mr. Mandela spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint.
Mr. Mandela was a leader in the struggle against racist white rule in South Africa and for preaching reconciliation once he emerged from prison in 1990 after 27 years behind bars. He won South Africa’s first truly democratic elections in 1994, serving one five-year term. The Nobel laureate later retired from public life to live in his remote village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape and last made a public appearance when South Africa hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.
Mr. Mandela disengaged himself with the country’s politics fairly successfully over the past decade and has grown increasing frail in recent years.