- Associated Press - Sunday, December 23, 2012

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Former South African leader Nelson Mandela probably will spend Christmas Day in a hospital because his doctors want to be satisfied his health has improved satisfactorily before sending him home, a South African media outlet reported Sunday.

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said the physicians caring for Mr. Mandela had given no indication of an “imminent discharge” from a hospital in Pretoria, the capital, according to IOL, a South African news website.

“At this stage there is no update on his condition and his doctors have given no indication” about when Mandela could be discharged, IOL quoted Mr. Maharaj as saying Saturday. IOL is owned by Independent Newspapers, a national group that publishes 15 newspapers.

Mr. Mandela was hospitalized Dec. 8. He was diagnosed with a lung infection and also had gallstone surgery; officials have said his condition has improved and he was responding to treatment. President Jacob Zuma acknowledged several days ago that Mr. Mandela‘s condition had been serious.

“They (the doctors) say there is no crisis, but add that they are in no hurry to send him home just yet until they are satisfied that he has made sufficient progress,” Mr. Maharaj said, according to IOL.

“We urge the public to continue supporting Madiba,” he said, using Mr. Mandela‘s clan name, an affectionate term. Mr. Maharaj appealed for people to “understand that he is 94 years old and needs extraordinary care.”

The Sunday Times, a South African newspaper that is not part of the media group that owns IOL, also said Mr. Mandela was likely to spend Christmas in hospital care. It did not cite a source. The newspaper quoted Mr. Maharaj as saying that rumors of a rapid deterioration in Mr. Mandela‘s health were “completely false and baseless.”

South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he is praying for a prompt recovery for Mr. Mandela. Radio 702, a South African station, on Sunday broadcast an interview with Archbishop Tutu in which he said he had exchanged telephone text messages about Mr. Mandela with the anti-apartheid icon’s wife, Graca Machel.

Archbishop Tutu and Mr. Mandela are Nobel laureates because of their role in the struggle against white minority rule. Mr. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years and served one five-year term as president after he was elected in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

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