Nelson Mandela to spend Christmas in hospital, government says

Updated 11:54 AM EST, Mon December 24, 2012

Story highlights

President Jacob Zuma says Mandela is responding well to treatment

Zuma asks for prayers for the former president, who's been in the hospital since December 8

CNN —  

South African icon Nelson Mandela was in good spirits on Christmas, even though he was in the hospital, President Jacob Zuma said.

In a statement on his website, President Jacob Zuma said that Mandela is responding well to treatment.

“We also humbly invite all freedom loving people around the world to pray for him. He is an ardent fighter and will recover from this episode with all our support,” said Zuma, who visited Mandela on Saturday.

Mandela, 94, has received round-the-clock care since an acute respiratory infection in 2011. He was hospitalized for a lung infection on December 8; and on December 15, he had successful endoscopic surgery to have gallstones removed.

Mandela, the former South African president, has not appeared in public since the 2010 World Cup hosted in his country.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner spent 27 years in prison for fighting the oppression of blacks in South Africa. He became the nation’s first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed.

South Africa last month launched a new batch of banknotes with a picture of a smiling Mandela on the front.