Nelson Mandela’s health is unstable at times but the critically ill South African “icon” has shown “great resilience”, the Presidency said on Saturday, as he spent a 78th day in hospital.
“While at times his condition becomes unstable, the doctors indicate that the former president has demonstrated great resilience and his condition tends to stabilise as a result of medical interventions,” said the statement, the first in nearly two weeks.
The ailing 95-year-old anti-apartheid icon, fondly known by his clan name “Madiba”, was hospitalised in Pretoria on 8 June with a recurring lung infection.
“Doctors are still working hard to effect a turnaround and a further improvement in his health and to keep the former president comfortable,” President Jacob Zuma’s office added.
Presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj did not elaborate further on his condition.
“There are times when he has those down moments, he responds to treatment, but there are times when it’s not stable,” he told AFP.
“But he’s stable,” he added.
In late June, Zuma cancelled a trip abroad after Mandela’s health deteriorated but his office said he would leave on Saturday for Malaysia for an official visit as planned.
While there, he will also receive a peace award on Mandela’s behalf.
Zuma urged South Africans to continue praying for Mandela and to keep the country’s first black president constantly in their thoughts.
“His condition is still critical but stable,” said the statement, echoing the updates on his condition for weeks.
The Presidency is the official channel for public updates about Mandela’s health, and had not issued a statement since 11 August.
Then, Mandela was said to be making “a slow but steady improvement” but that he remained critically ill.
His youngest daughter Zindzi Mandela said two days earlier that he was able to sit up unaccompanied and was “more alert, more responsive”.
At the end of July, Zuma’s office said Mandela was continuing to show signs of improvement after scares were reported.
US television network CBS said Mandela had undergone a surgical procedure to unblock a dialysis tube.
The broadcaster also reported occasions of Mandela having not responded to his medicines and his life support machine having shown distress.
Mandela has faced several health scares in recent years and his lung problems date back to his 27 years in apartheid jail.
His current hospitalisation — now entering a 12th week — is his longest since he walked free from jail in 1990 and went on to become the country’s first leader to be elected in elections which saw whites marginalised .
He has been absent for years from public life, and South Africans have become more familiar with his frailty but his latest ill health prompted a groundswell of wellwishers to gather outside his hospital.
His 95th birthday last month was marked by charitable deeds, with many people offering 67 minutes of service for the 67 years he was in public service.
In December, he spent nearly three weeks in hospital to be treated for a lung infection and gall stones.
In March, he was admitted overnight for a scheduled check-up, followed by a 10-day admission for pneumonia later that month. – AFP