* Government says it is recurrence of previous infection
* Former president's "sparkle" fading, wife Graca says
* Famed anti-apartheid leader is hero to South Africans
By Tshepo Tshabalala
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 11 Former South African
President Nelson Mandela, who is 94 and has been in hospital
since Saturday for tests, has suffered a recurrence of a lung
infection but is responding to treatment, the government said on
The revered anti-apartheid leader and Nobel Peace laureate
is spending his fourth day in hospital in the capital, Pretoria.
Known affectionately by his clan name "Madiba", Mandela
remains a hero to many of South Africa's 52 million people and
two brief stretches in hospital in the past two years made front
"Doctors have concluded the tests and these have revealed a
recurrence of a previous lung infection, for which Madiba is
receiving appropriate treatment and he is responding to the
treatment," the government said in a statement.
Mandela was admitted to the Pretoria military hospital on
Saturday after being flown from his home village of Qunu in a
remote part of the Eastern Cape province.
Until now, authorities had given few details about the
reason for his latest visit to hospital.
In an interview broadcast on South Africa's eNCA television
channel, Mandela's Mozambican-born wife Graca said the former
president's "sparkle" was fading.
When he was admitted to hospital on Saturday, officials
stressed there was no cause for concern although domestic media
reports suggested senior members of the government and people
close to him had been caught unawares.
On the streets, ordinary South Africans crossed their
fingers for his recovery. Leading cartoonist Zapiro depicted
Mandela asleep in his hospital bed with hundreds of "Get Well"
cards flying through the window like a flock of birds.
"He's old and I hope he gets better soon. He means a lot to
the world," 25-year-old legal researcher Liezel Jacobs said.
Mandela, South Africa's first black president and a global
symbol of resistance to racism and injustice, spent 27 years in
apartheid prisons, including 18 years on the windswept Robben
Island off the coast of Cape Town.
He was released in 1990 and went on to be elected president
in the historic all-race elections in 1994 that ended decades of
white-minority rule in Africa's most important economy.
He used his unparalleled prestige to push for reconciliation
between whites and blacks, setting up a commission to probe
crimes committed by both sides in the anti-apartheid struggle.
Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) has continued to
govern since his retirement from politics in 1999, but has been
criticised for perceived corruption and slowness in addressing
apartheid-era inequalities in housing, education and healthcare.
On Tuesday, the influential South African Council of
Churches launched a blistering attack on the ANC, accusing its
leaders of moral decay and of abandoning Mandela's goal of a
non-racial democracy built from the ashes of apartheid.
Mandela spent time in a Johannesburg hospital in 2011 with a
respiratory condition, and again in February this year because
of abdominal pains. He was released the following day after a
keyhole examination showed there was nothing serious.
He has since spent most of his time in Qunu.
His fragile health prevents him from making any public
appearances, although he has continued to receive high-profile
domestic and international visitors, including former U.S.
President Bill Clinton in July.