Mandela “comfortable” after night in hospital… as Zuma visits

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JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Nelson Mandela is “comfortable”, the South African government said Sunday after the former president spent the night in hospital, for medical tests described as “consistent with his age”.

President Jacob Zuma on Sunday visited the country’s 94-year-old first black president who was hospitalised a day earlier and said he “found him comfortable, and in good care.”

The iconic leader was admitted on Saturday for what Zuma’s spokesman and former Mandela prison inmate Mac Maharaj said was for tests and medical attention consistent with the nanogenarian’s age.

It was the second time the 94-year-old and increasingly frail Mandela was hospitalised this year and officials have moved to allay fears around his health.

The anti-apartheid hero and Nobel Peace Prize laureate was flown from his home village of Qunu in the southeast of the country to a hospital in the capital Pretoria on Saturday.

The South African government reported he was doing well shortly after he was taken in for “normal” tests “consistent with his age” and insisted there was “no cause for alarm”.

Keith Khoza spokesman of the ruling ANC party, which Mandela once led, said “he is in perfect health, everything is well, it’s just that he has to undergo these regular check ups.”

Officials have refused to give more details about his condition and the tests he is taking or say which hospital he was at.

Security appeared to have been beefed up however at 1 Military Hospital on the outskirts of the capital Pretoria.

Military police were searching the trunks of all the cars entering the hospital complex, according to an AFP photographer.

South Africa’s military has in the past been responsible for Mandela’s health.

The revered statesman has not appeared in public since South Africa hosted the FIFA Football World Cup final in 2010.

Madiba, as he is affectionately known by South Africans, has all-but retired from public life, choosing to live in his childhood hometown of Qunu in the rural Eastern Cape.

His last hospitalisation was in February when he spent a night in hospital for a minor exploratory procedure to investigate persistent abdominal pain.

In January 2011, Mandela had the country on edge when he was admitted for two nights for an acute respiratory infection. He was discharged in a stable condition for home-based care and intense medical monitoring.

Mandela has also had prostate cancer which he was totally cured of in 2001, and he had cataract surgery in 1994, just months after he took office.

After years fighting white-only rule, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the last white president, FW de Klerk, in 1993.

A year later, he crowned his long fight against minority rule by becoming the country’s first black president at the end of apartheid.

News of his hospitalisation caught many, including some close to him, unawares on Saturday.

His foundation didn’t known of his admission when contacted for comment. One of his grand-daughters, Ndileka, also professed ignorance.

His former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was watching a football match between the country’s Premiership derby between rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates as he was being airlifted to Pretoria.

The last pictures of Mandela published in the media were in August when he received a visit from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at his home.

The once spry boxer, who stayed fit during his 27 years in prison by doing calisthenics in his cell, has grown increasingly frail, but his stature as one of the world’s most famous and loved public figures remains undimmed.

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