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Nelson Mandela in 'good spirits' in South Africa hospital

The former South African president is responding to treatment for a recurring lung infection, officials say. This marks the third time in four months the 94-year-old has been hospitalized. NBC's Keir Simmons reports.

Former South Africa leader Nelson Mandela was in “good spirits” Friday, officials said, as he spent a second day in hospital where he is being treated for a recurring lung infection.

“The doctors report that he is making steady progress,” said a statement from the country’s presidency, adding that the 94-year-old had “enjoyed a full breakfast.”

Earlier, South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, sought to reassure his country over Mandela’s health, saying in a BBC interview that people "must not panic."

However, he appeared to agree with the suggestion that South Africa should prepare for Mandela’s eventual death.

“Is this a time for us to be aware of what is inevitable?” asked the BBC's Lerato Mbele. “Well, I would imagine so,” replied Zuma.

Mandela, 94, was taken to a hospital just before midnight local time (6 p.m. ET) on Wednesday – his third hospital visit since December.

He has a history of lung problems dating back to his days as a political prisoner in the notorious Robben Island jail under the apartheid regime, where inmates worked in an open quarry. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1988 after being moved to Pollsmoor Prison.

Mandela spent 18 days in hospital in December, undergoing surgery for gallstones.

Earlier, President Barack Obama sent his best wishes to the former leader.

"He is as strong physically as he's been in character and in leadership over so many decades, and hopefully he will ... come out of this latest challenge," Obama told reporters at the White House Thursday.

"When you think of a single individual that embodies the kind of leadership qualities that I think we all aspire to, the first name that comes up is Nelson Mandela. And so we wish him all the very best," Obama said.

NBC News’ Stacey Klein contributed to this report.

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