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Mandela getting better but remains 'serious'

Rope access technicians work to complete a huge portrait of former South African President Nelson Mandela on the windows of the Civic Centre
Rope access technicians work to complete a huge portrait of former South African President Nelson Mandela on the windows of the Civic Centre

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Nelson Mandela continues to recover in hospital from a lung infection but remains in a serious condition, South African President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday.

Mandela has been in a Pretoria hospital for a week, the fourth time the 94-year-old former president and anti-Apartheid leader has been admitted to hospital since December.

"We are grateful that he continues to get better," Zuma said. "Over the last two days, although he remains serious, his doctors have stated that his improvement has been sustained."

Zuma was addressing a gathering for Youth Day in eMadadeni in the KwaZulu-Natal province in remembrance of the 1976 Soweto youth uprisings against apartheid.

Mandela's repeated bouts of illness have reinforced a creeping realization among South Africa's 53 million people that they will one day have to say goodbye to their first black president.

Mandela, popularly known by his clan name "Madiba", has a history of lung problems dating back to his time at the windswept Robben Island prison camp near Cape Town. He was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years behind bars and was president from 1994 to 1999.

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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