Former South African President Nelson Mandela was hospitalized for a test to determine what is behind an undisclosed stomach ailment, and the country’s current leader said the much beloved 93-year-old icon was in no danger.
The Associated Press reported Mandela, a Nobel peace laureate who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, has officially retired and last appeared in public in July 2010. He became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term.
Mandela “has had a long-standing abdominal complaint and doctors feel it needs proper specialist medical attention,” President Jacob Zuma said in a statement Saturday morning, asking that Mandela’s privacy be respected.
In a follow-up statement later, Zuma added that Mandela had undergone a planned, undisclosed “diagnostic procedure.”
Mandela “is fine and fully conscious and the doctors are satisfied with his condition, which they say is consistent with his age,” Zuma said. “We are happy that he is not in any danger.”
Zuma said Mandela was expected to be discharged from the hospital Sunday or Monday.
The statements did not say at where Nelson Mandela was hospitalized, apparently to protect his privacy, but that did not stop journalists from camping out at a military hospital in the capital, Pretoria, on the chance he might be there. In 2011, Mandela spent a few days in a private Johannesburg hospital with an acute respiratory infection.
The South African military, which took charge of Mandela’s health care after he was hospitalized last year, and a spokesman for Mandela’s office said they would have no statement Saturday.
ANC spokesman Keith Khoza said Zuma’s office also had reassured ANC officials.
Mandela “just had abdominal pains for some time now and the doctors decided a while ago that perhaps they should admit him, with a view to check those abdominal pains, so it wasn’t an emergency admission,” Khoza told reporters. “He’s fine, he’s in good health.”
Well-wishers like Derek Kemper, a 47-year-old emergency services consultant, said they hoped Mandela would soon recover.
Kemper said he fought the ANC as a soldier for the apartheid state. On Saturday, Kemper was touring Soweto, the famed Johannesburg township set aside for blacks under apartheid and still largely black and poor, with a group of other whites. Kemper marveled at how far the country had come, and credited Mandela.