Nelson Mandela is spending his second full day in hospital as he responds to treatment for a recurrent lung infection. And as the world waits anxiously for news of the iconic former leader, 94, South African president Jacob Zuma has spoken out to reassure his nation.
Speaking to the BBC, he said Mr Mandela was doing “very well” so far, and that people “must not panic”. But he has also said that South Africans should be realistic about the prognosis because of Mr Mandela”s age.
“In Zulu, when someone passes away who is very old, people say he or she has gone home. I think those are some of the things we should be thinking about,” he said.
Mr Mandela, who spent 18 days in hospital in December, was admitted before midnight on Wednesday. Not long afterwards, Mr Zuma affectionally called for the “world to pray for our beloved Madiba”, in reference to Mr Mandela”s clan name.
It was a sentiment echoed by US president Barack Obama, who has said he is “deeply concerned with Nelson Mandela”s health. “He is a hero, I think, to all of us”, he commented, before adding, “We will be keeping him in our thoughts and prayers”.
The former politician has been admitted to hospital four times in just over two years, three of those admissions taking place in the past four months.
Mr Mandela served as South Africa”s first black president from 1994 until 1999, and is fondly considered the “father of the nation”. He became the nation”s first democratically-elected president after his release from 27 years of imprisonment in 1990 signaled the end of apartheid. He remains an enduring symbol of the struggle against racism.