South Africa: Nelson Mandela gets Christmas wishes

Zuma joined Mandela

FILE This May 16, 2011 file photo supplied by the South African Government Communications and Information Services, GCIS, shows former South African President Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel after they cast an early ballot in upcoming local elections at his home in Johannesburg, South Africa. South Africa's president has visited former leader Nelson Mandela in a hospital, and the presidency says Mandela continues to respond to treatment. The office of President Jacob Zuma says he saw Mandela on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, in Pretoria, the capital, and assured the anti-apartheid icon that he has the support of all South Africans and the world. Mandela, who is 94, has been hospitalized since Dec. 8. He was diagnosed with a lung infection and also had gallstone surgery. (AP Photo/Elmond Jiyane-GCIS, File)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Former South African leader Nelson Mandela looks "much better" after medical treatment and doctors are pleased with his progress, President Jacob Zuma said after visiting the anti-apartheid icon in a hospital on Christmas Day.

Zuma joined Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, and other family members in wishing a Merry Christmas to Mandela at his bedside, according to the president's office.

"We found him in good spirits," Zuma said in a statement. "He shouted my clan name, Nxamalala, as I walked into the ward! He was happy to have visitors on this special day and is looking much better. The doctors are happy with the progress that he is making."

Mandela was admitted Dec. 8 to a hospital in Pretoria, the South African capital. He was diagnosed with a lung infection and also had a procedure to remove gallstones. Officials have previously said Mandela was improving, but note doctors are taking extraordinary care because he is 94 years old.

Zuma said Mandela's family appreciates the support it has received from the public.

"That is what keeps them going at this difficult time," he said.

Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years under apartheid, the system of white minority rule that was eventually dismantled, opening the way to South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994. Mandela, a Nobel laureate, served one five-year term as president before retiring.

He was brought to the Pretoria hospital from his home in Qunu, a rural village in Eastern Cape province where Mandela lived as a child.

In the Johannesburg township of Soweto, worshippers offered prayers for Mandela while attending Christmas Mass at Regina Mundi, a Catholic church that was a stronghold of anti-government sentiment during the apartheid years.

Some expressed disappointment that Mandela wasn't well enough to return home for the holiday.

"We wish him a Merry Christmas," Ivy Mncube said outside the church. "We wish him well for all the days that are left for him."

Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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