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South Africa's Zuma calls Mandela's condition 'very serious'


View images of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who went from anti-apartheid activist to prisoner to South Africa's first black president.

PRETORIA, South Africa –  South African President Jacob Zuma described former leader Nelson Mandela’s condition as “very serious but stabilized” on Tuesday, and said that “all are praying” for the anti-apartheid leader’s recovery.

Officials had called Mandela’s condition “serious but stable” after he was rushed to the hospital with a lung infection on Saturday, but this is the first time it has been called “very serious.”  

Zuma also said he had met with the medical team that is treating Mandela. In a statement earlier in the day, Zuma’s office said the president "has full confidence in the medical team, and is satisfied that they are doing their best" to make Mandela better. 

Nelson Mandela, 94, remains hospitalized with a lung infection as his daughter, ex-wife, and other family members pay him visits. NBC's Keir Simmons reports from Pretoria, South Africa, where security at the hospital is being increased.

“We certainly join everyone to say he should recover quickly,” Zuma added. “And I'm sure, knowing him as I do, he is a good fighter. He will be with us very soon."

Security was boosted outside the hospital where Mandela was treated on the fourth day of his stay in hospital on Tuesday. The number of police officers and private security guards was increased substantially and vehicles entering the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria were being checked. 

On Monday, a newspaper photographer said his camera was broken after he was assaulted as he tried to take pictures of visitors entering the hospital.Earlier, former wife Winnie Mandela paid a visit to the hospital. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Winnie, a fellow anti-apartheid campaigner, were married throughout his 27 years in prison when tuberculosis weakened his lungs.

After he was released in 1990, he took his fight for racial equality right to the presidency, toppling the minority white leadership and becoming South Africa's first black president.

F. Brinley Bruton / NBC News

Police check cars entering the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria on Tuesday.

At Mandela’s home in Houghton, an upscale neighborhood in Johannesburg, school children paid tribute to the former president by singing and leaving get well messages.

"We are here today because of him. If it was not for him we were supposed to be not here,” said Madame Zodwa, the children’s teacher at Rainbow Hill Christian Primary School. “So we are so happy about his life and I know God has got a purpose for his life, so we are just here to wish him well."

Many family members had visited the Pretoria hospital, but according to local reports only those closest to Mandela were being allowed to be by his side, including his current wife Graca Michel. Among the stream of relatives coming in and out was Zenani Dlamini, Mandela's daughter who also serves as South Africa's ambassador to Argentina.

“There are restrictions which arise from the fact that Madiba is under intensive care," presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said. "Those are medical restrictions to control movement of people (to exclude the) possibility of visitors bringing infection into the environment."

"President Jacob Zuma reiterates his call for South Africa to pray for Madiba [Mandela] and the family during this time,” an official government statement released on Monday said. Mandela is often affectionately referred to by his clan name Madiba.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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