JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Nelson Mandela received visits from family members on Sunday at a hospital where the former president and anti-apartheid leader was being treated for a recurring lung infection, while South Africans expressed their appreciation for a man widely regarded as the father of the nation.
There was no official update on 94-year-old Mandela after his second night in the hospital. His condition was described as “serious but stable” on Saturday.
The office of President Jacob Zuma had said that Mandela was taken to a Pretoria hospital after his condition deteriorated at around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The anti-apartheid leader has now been taken to a hospital four times since December, with the last discharge coming on April 6 after doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia and drained fluid from his lung area.
Members of Mandela’s family on Sunday were seen visiting the Pretoria hospital where he is believed to be staying. They included Makaziwe Mandela, the eldest of the ex-leader’s three surviving children, and Ndileka Mandela, one of his 17 grandchildren.
Worshippers at a Sunday church service in the Johannesburg township of Soweto prayed for the recovery of Mandela, who was freed in 1990 after 27 years as a prisoner of white racist rule and won election to the presidency in all-race elections in 1994. He retired from public life years ago and had received medical care at his Johannesburg home until his latest transfer to a hospital.
At the Regina Mundi church in Soweto, Father Sebastian Rousso said Mandela, seen by many as a symbol of reconciliation for his peacemaking efforts, played a key role “not only for ourselves as South Africans, but for the world.”
There is a stained glass image of Mandela with arms raised in the Catholic church, a center of protests and funeral services for activists during the apartheid years.
“We still need him in our lives because he did so much for us,” said Mantsho Moralo, a receptionist who was in the congregation. Siyabonga Nyembe, a student, described Mandela as a “pillar of strength” for South Africans.
A stream of tourists visited Mandela’s former home, now a museum, on Vilakazi Street in Soweto. Visitors and vendors wished a quick recovery for the man whose sacrifices in the fight against apartheid made their lives better, even if South Africa today is struggling today with high unemployment and other severe challenges.