South Africa’s government confirmed on Friday that former president Nelson Mandela was undergoing specialised tests in hospital but that his health was not in danger.
“Medically there is no need to panic. Dr Mandela suffers from ailment common to people of his age, and conditions that have developed over years,” said South African Vice President Kgalema Motlanthe in a statement.
“We may recall that he has suffered from tuberculosis whilst on Robben Island and has had previous respiratory infections.”
Motlanthe and South Africa’s surgeon-general will brief the media at midday (2100 AEDT) on the 92-year-old’s health which has drawn increasing concern from the public.
“I want to assure the nation and the world that the former president is in high spirit, and has been visited by his family and friends,” said Motlanthe in a statement.
The country’s first democratic leader, who spent the bulk of his 27 apartheid jail term on Robben Island, was undergoing specialised tests and investigations, he said.
A source close to Mandela told AFP that Mandela was “very sick” but that his condition was “not life threatening”. “He came in for a check-up but the doctor decided to keep him in for observation. He is still not well but we expect him to be released tomorrow.”
No hospital or medical official contacted by AFP would confirm that Mandela would soon be discharged from Milpark hospital in Johannesburg where he was admitted on Wednesday.
Mandela was suffering from a respiratory condition, believed to be bronchitis, and put on a ventilator in the early hours of Thursday after he had difficulty breathing and speaking, The Times newspaper reported.
On Wednesday, The Nelson Mandela Foundation, established to continue his charitable work after he withdrew from public life in 2004, said that Mandela’s life was not in jeopardy.
“He is in no danger and is in good spirits,” said a statement from the foundation. It has made no further comment.
Mandela was jailed for 27 years for his fight against apartheid. He became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and stepped down after serving one term in 1999. He largely retired from public life in 2004.
The public has seen only glimpses of him recently, such as in November, when his office released photos of a private meeting between Mandela and members of the US and South African soccer teams.
The teams had just played a match in his honour.
Mandela also appeared at the closing ceremony of the World Cup in July, waving to the crowd as he was driven in a small golf cart alongside his wife, Graca Machel.