Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former president, was discharged from a Johannesburg hospital after a two-night stay that prompted widespread concern about the 92-year-old’s health.
Mandela responded well to treatment for an acute respiratory infection and will now receive care at home, the country’s Surgeon General Vejayn Ramlakan told reporters today at the Netcare Milpark Hospital. Mandela is “well” and in “high spirits,” he said.
“There is no need to panic,” Ramlakan said. “For 92, he surprises us on a daily basis” with his response to treatment.
Mandela’s hospitalization reignited concern about the health of South Africa’s first black president, who hasn’t been seen in public since a brief appearance at the final of the soccer World Cup on July 11 in Johannesburg. The Nobel peace-prize winner served for five years as president following South Africa’s first all-race elections in 1994.
“It comes to us with great joy to hear that he has been discharged,” Mandla Mandela, the former leader’s grandson, told the press conference.
Mandela suffered from tuberculosis on Robben Island prison, where he spent most of his 27-year jail term for fighting against the apartheid government, and has also had respiratory infections in the past. He was treated for prostate cancer in 2001.
Relatives, including Mandela’s former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, friends and leaders of the ruling African National Congress flocked to the hospital yesterday. Police boosted security at the hospital, cordoning off the entrance and restricting journalists and TV cameras from entering the premises.
Security was also increased around Mandela’s home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, where he arrived by ambulance today after leaving the hospital, according to the South African Press Association.
Mandela received 10,000 messages of support this week, including from U.S. President Barack Obama, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told reporters. Mandela was sitting up in bed, breathing unassisted and joking with friends and family today, Motlanthe said.
“The Mandela family and Madiba himself would like to convey our appreciation for all those South Africans and people around the world who sent words of support to the family and their prayers,” Motlanthe said. “Madiba is well,” he said, using Mandela’s clan name.
Motlanthe said the government may have erred and contributed to “panic” by not giving the public an earlier update on Mandela’s health. The Nelson Mandela Foundation hadn’t provided any information on the former leader since a two-sentence statement on Jan. 26 that he was undergoing “routine” tests.
“We’re quite happy he’s been discharged,” Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general of the ANC, said in an interview at the hospital. “We think that will allay all the speculation. Mandela is 92 years. People must put less and less pressure on him and his family.”
President Jacob Zuma, who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, has been kept informed of Mandela’s condition by Defense Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, his spokesman, Zizi Kodwa, said. Zuma has left Davos for Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, where he will attend the African Union leaders’ summit this weekend.