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Africa

South Africans worried about Mandela's health

South Africans remain concerned about the condition of Nelson Mandela following his hospitalization on December 8. They criticize the government for not being forthcoming about the former president’s health.

Former South African president and Nobel peace laureate Nelson Mandela is reported to be in "good spirits" following a visit by South African President Jacob Zuma on Christmas Day.

"We found him [Mandela] in good spirits. He was happy to have visitors on this special day and is looking much better," Zuma said, adding that doctors are happy with the progress that the former president is making.

94-year old Mandela, who was admitted to hospital on December 8 following a recurrent lung treatment, also underwent surgery to remove gallstones in a hospital in Pretoria.

Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994. For many, he remains a symbol of resistance to racism. He spent 27 years in prison for fighting Apartheid – the South Africa's official policy of racial segregation. It was during his time in prison that he developed lung problems that began when he caught tuberculosis.

President Jacob Zuma (L) speaks with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at start of the 53rd National Conference of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Bloemfontein, December 16, 2012. South Africa is not falling apart and the ANC can run the continent's biggest economy, Zuma said on Sunday, as he sought to dispel the concerns of rating agencies and investors about sluggish growth.The conference will choose the leadership of the party for the next five years. (Photo: Mike Hutchings, Reuters)

President Zuma (l.) was among the few people who visited Mandela in hospital.

Why Mandela's health matters

Despite his age and health problems in recent years, this has been Mandela's longest stay in hospital since he left prison in 1990. And it is being followed closely both at home and abroad.

"The fact the he is the world's most famous [former] political prisoner turned president turned elder statesman (…) makes him clearly a global commodity in news media terms," South African political analyst Daniel Silke told DW.

The South African government has come under severe criticism from the media and people who feel that it has not been transparent about disclosing the details on the former president's hospitalization.

Silke believes that because of some communication problems in the past regarding the former president's health, the South African government has responded by being more protective.

"But clearly this needs to be done professionally…I think the current South African government continues to learn on the job as to how to accomplish this," Silke added.

The recent re-election of President Jacob Zuma exacerbates the memories that South Africans of Mandela as a leader who could bring all South Africans together, he noted.

"I think in a strange way it puts Mandela's health on the front burner just because South Africans are thinking about the domestic political situation here and how things may be into the future," he added.

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