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Mandela ‘Sprightly’ as He Recovers From Pneumonia: Zuma

South Africa's First Black Leader Nelson Mandela
South Africa's first black leader Nelson Mandela. Photographer: Naashon Zalk/Bloomberg

Former South African leader Nelson Mandela is “sprightly” and recovering well following a recent bout of pneumonia, President Jacob Zuma said.

Mandela, 94, returned to his Johannesburg home on April 6 after undergoing 10 days of treatment in an undisclosed hospital, during which time doctors drained fluid surrounding his lungs. His hospitalization was his third in four months, including a scheduled checkup.

“He is doing very well,” Zuma said in an interview in Cape Town yesterday. “He is a good fighter. He is actually demonstrating this in his old age. We just accept the fact that he is no longer young. We are happy that we are still with him.”

Mandela served for five years as South Africa’s first black president, after his African National Congress won all-race elections that ended apartheid in 1994. He spent 27 years in prison, most of it on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, where he contracted tuberculosis. Also known by his clan name, Madiba, Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Zuma, who was appointed president in May 2009, said he last saw Mandela when he was still in the hospital and his condition had stabilized.

“Everything was fine,” Zuma said. “He was sprightly. He gave that beautiful smile of his when I talked to him.”

Asked if Mandela intended returning to his rural home at Qunu near his birthplace in Eastern Cape province, Zuma said that was a decision to be taken by the former president and his doctors.

“If he wanted to go to his village, I am sure they would be happy and capable to be able to provide for him there,” Zuma said.

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