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Nelson Mandela Is Reportedly Doing Much Better, South African Government States

Update Date: Apr 03, 2013 01:05 PM EDT

Anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela's health is reportedly improving, a recent statement issued by current South African President Jacob Zuma says.

The former President of South Africa was hospitalized last week. According to the New York Times, the government says that he had developed a pleural effusion, or a buildup of fluid in the lungs. Doctors have reportedly addressed the problem, allowing the leader to breathe without difficulty.

Addressing Mandela by his clan name, the terse statement says, "President Nelson Mandela continues to make steady improvement in hospital. His doctors say he continues to respond satisfactorily to treatment and is much better now than he was when he was admitted to hospital...He has been visited by family and continues to make steady progress."

This visit to the hospital marks Mandela's third since December. According to Al-Jazeera, the icon was hospitalized for 18 days due to a lung infection and gallstone surgery. Last month, he spent the night in a hospital during a check-up.

Mandela contracted tuberculosis during his two-decade stay in prison that has caused him lingering health problems.

Nelson Mandela spent over a quarter of a century in prison because of his efforts to end apartheid. He was released in 1994 and became South Africa's first Black President. He served for a single term, retiring to perform charity works in 1999.

Though the now 94-year-old retired from public life in 2004, he remains a prominent figure, both in South Africa and abroad. "There is still this sense that South Africa socially is about to tear itself apart, and he is the only one holding it together," Steven Freeman, the director of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg, said to the Wall Street Journal.

Traveling dignitaries still visit the former President, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a recent visit to the country. Regardless, as Mandela's health has deteriorated, he has retreated further and further from the public eye. His last public appearance was in 2010, when his country hosted the World Cup.

The statement does not indicate when Nelson Mandela will be discharged from the hospital.

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