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Hospitalized Mandela Responding to Pneumonia Treatment,

Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s condition is improving as he responds to treatment for pneumonia, President Jacob Zuma’s office said.

“Mandela continues to make steady improvement in hospital,” Zuma’s office said in an e-mailed statement today. “His doctors say he continues to respond satisfactorily to treatment and is much better now than he was when he was admitted to hospital.”

South Africa’s first black president was admitted to a Pretoria hospital before midnight on March 27 to treat pneumonia, with doctors performing a procedure to drain liquid from his lungs during the weekend. Mandela, 94, has been hospitalized three times since December, including a scheduled check-up last month.

Zuma said in a pre-recorded interview broadcast on CNBC Africa yesterday that South Africans shouldn’t have a “lot of anxiety” regarding Mandela’s health. The country must “take it easy” and the former president will eventually return to his home, he said.

Mandela served as president for five years after the African National Congress in 1994 won the first elections since the end of white minority rule. He spent 27 years in prison for opposing apartheid, most of it spent on Robben Island off the coast near Cape Town, where the apartheid government kept political prisoners. He contracted tuberculosis while in prison.

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