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Prayers as Mandela (94) is kept in hospital


Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Former South African president Nelson Mandela is spending a fourth day in a Pretoria hospital, where he is being treated for a recurring lung infection.

There was no official update on the 94-year-old this morning. The government has previously said South Africa's first black president is in a serious but stable condition.

A statement issued for a foundation led by retired archbishop Desmond Tutu described Mandela as "the beloved father of our nation" and offered prayers for a man seen by many as a symbol of reconciliation when white racist rule ended in South Africa.

Mandela "once again endures the ravages of time in hospital", said the Cape Town-based foundation. "We offer our thanks to God for the extraordinary gift of Mr Mandela, and wish his family strength."

Meanwhile, the African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, dismissed a report that Mandela's family had barred them from the hospital.

On April 29, television broadcast footage of a visit to Mandela's home by President Jacob Zuma and other ANC leaders.

Zuma said then that Mandela was in good shape, but the footage – the first public images of Mandela in nearly a year – showed him silent and unresponsive, even when Zuma tried to hold his hand.

Gerry Gregg: Page 16