JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A former South African president has said the health of Nelson Mandela is improving as the 94-year-old beloved anti-apartheid leader marked two weeks in the hospital Friday.
Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela as president in 1999, made the comment Thursday night in an interview with Power FM, a South African radio station.
Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison during white racist rule, was taken to a Pretoria hospital on June 8 to be treated for a recurring lung infection. It marked the fourth time he has been hospitalized since December.
"I maintained very close contact with the family and the doctors about Nelson Mandela's condition," said Mbeki, who served two five-year terms as president.
"Nelson Mandela is in fact improving, in terms of his health," Mbeki said. "I think we really need to feel comforted that we still have him with us now."
The government had described Mandela's condition as serious but stable, but later said he was improving.
Ndaba Mandela, one of Mandela's grandsons, thanked the many people around the world who have sent messages of support for his grandfather during his illness.
"For us, as family, as long as he can still hear and understand what is said to him, and talk to us, we'll continue to celebrate him," The Star, a South African newspaper, quoted Ndaba Mandela as saying Thursday. He spoke at a media briefing about a football invitational in South Africa that will be part of celebrations surrounding July 18, Mandela's 95th birthday.
Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and became South Africa's first black president in all-race elections in 1994.