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Keep Nelson Mandela in thoughts and prayers, Zuma says

By Ed Payne, CNN
updated 5:59 AM EST, Mon December 31, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nelson Mandela has undergone a series of treatments recently
  • The 94-year-old former president was discharged from the hospital last week
  • Mandela will continue receiving treatment at his home, Zuma says
  • He has not appeared in public since South Africa hosted the World Cup in 2010

(CNN) -- South African President Jacob Zuma urged his countrymen Monday to keep the ailing Nelson Mandela in their prayers.

"He remains an important symbol of our struggle for liberation and of the successful transition from apartheid colonialism to a non-racial and democratic society," Zuma said in a New Year message to the nation.

Read more: 2012 New Year message by President Jacob Zuma

"We should continue to keep the Mandela family in our thoughts and prayers until Tata has fully recovered."

Mandela is sometimes affectionately known as 'Tata,' or father in the Xhosa language.

Last week, Mandela was discharged from a hospital and will continue receiving treatment at his home in Houghton, a Zuma spokesman said at the time.

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On Friday, Mandela's granddaughter Zaziwe Manaway told CNN that there's no truth to social meida rumors that he's close to death.

Read more: Mandela is at home and alert, wants rumors about death to stop, relative says

"That is absolutely not true. My grandfather is well," she said. "It can be very, very hurtful for us to hear these messages out there in the social media that our grandfather is going to go home to die. It is insensitive."

Mandela, 94, was treated for an acute respiratory infection in 2011.

He was hospitalized for a lung infection on December 8; and on December 15, he underwent surgery for removal of gallstones.

Read more: Mandela in hospital for tests 'consistent with his age'

Mandela has not appeared in public since the 2010 World Cup hosted in his country.

During the time of apartheid in South Africa, Mandela was convicted of sabotage and was imprisoned for 27 years until 1990.

He and former President F.W. de Klerk, who dismantled apartheid, shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. A year later, Mandela became the nation's first black president.

South Africa last month issued banknotes bearing the picture of Mandela.

Read more: South Africa launches banknotes with Mandela image

Despite his rare public appearances in recent years, Mandela retains his popularity and is considered a hero of democracy in the nation.

South Africans celebrated his 94th birthday in July by participating in good deeds nationwide to honor the legacy of the famous statesman.

Citizens performed at least 67 minutes of public service on his birthday, a reference to the number of years he devoted to helping others.

Mandela's impact has extended far beyond the borders of his own country. After he left office in 1999, he was involved in international situations ranging from conflicts in Africa to the Mideast.

In January 2000, he addressed the United Nations Security Council, appealing for help in ending the brutal civil war between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi. In December 2003, he participated in the signing of the Geneva Accords for peace in the Middle East.

A bronze statue of Mandela was unveiled in Parliament Square in London in 2007, and in 2009 the United Nations designated July 18 as Mandela Day for that year.

Read more: No African leader deemed worthy of leadership award

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