Former South African President Nelson Mandela waving to the media as he arrives outside 10 Downing
Former South African President Nelson Mandela waving to the media as he arrives outside 10 Downing Street, in central London, August 28, 2007. Photo by AFP
Text size
AP
Nelson Mandela and wife Winnie, walk hand-in hand-with their raised clenched fists upon Mandela's release from Victor Verster prison, near Cape Town South Africa, Feb. 11, 1990. Photo by AP

Nelson Mandela's health has deteriorated and he is now in critical condition, the South African government said Sunday.

The office of President Jacob Zuma said in a statement that he had visited the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader at a hospital on Sunday evening and was informed by the medical team that Mandela's condition had become critical in the past 24 hours.

"The doctors are doing everything possible to get his condition to improve and are ensuring that Madiba is well-looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands," Zuma said in the statement, using Mandela's clan name.

Zuma also met Graca Machel, Mandela's wife, at the hospital and discussed the former leader's condition, according to the statement.

Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president after the end of apartheid in 1994, was hospitalized on June 8 for what the government said was a recurring lung infection.

Zuma appealed to South Africans and the rest of the world to pray for Mandela, his family and the medical team that is attending to him.

Mandela was jailed for 27 years under white racist rule and was released in 1990. He then played a leading role in steering the divided country from the apartheid era to democracy, becoming South Africa's first black president in all-race elections in 1994.

As a result of his sacrifice and peacemaking efforts, he is seen by many around the world as a symbol of reconciliation.