The ailing Mandela, 94, has been hospitalized since Saturday for medical tests at 1 Military Hospital near South Africa’s capital, Pretoria.
The announcement ended speculation about what was troubling the ailing anti-apartheid icon. Government officials had declined repeatedly to say what caused the nation’s military, responsible for Mandela’s care, to hospitalize the leader over the last few days. That caused growing concern in South Africa, a nation of 50 million people that largely reveres Mandela for being the nation’s first democratically elected president who sought to bring the country together after centuries of racial division.
The tests Mandela underwent at the hospital detected the lung infection, said presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj in a statement.
“Madiba is receiving appropriate treatment and he is responding to the treatment,” Maharaj said, referring to Mandela by his clan name as many do in South Africa in a sign of affection.
In January 2011, Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what officials initially described as tests but what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection. The chaos that followed Mandela’s stay at that public hospital, with journalists and the curious surrounding it and entering wards, saw the South African military take charge of his care and the government control the information about his health. In recent days many in the press and public have complained about the lack of concrete details that the government has released about Mandela’s condition.
Mandela has had a series of health problems in his life. He contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison and had surgery for an enlarged prostate gland in 1985. In 2001, Mandela underwent seven weeks of radiation therapy for prostate cancer, ultimately beating the disease.
In February, Mandela spent a night in a hospital for a minor diagnostic surgery to determine the cause of an abdominal complaint.
Mandela was a leader in the struggle against racist white rule in South Africa and for preaching reconciliation once he emerged from prison in 1990 after 27 years behind bars. He won South Africa’s first truly democratic elections in 1994, serving one five-year term. The Nobel laureate later retired from public life to live in his remote village of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, and last made a public appearance when his country hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.
Mandela disengaged himself with the country’s politics fairly successfully over the last decade and has grown increasing frail in recent years.