Nelson Mandela in hospital as South Africans pray

Church-goers in Soweto have been praying for Mr Mandela

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Prayers have been said in churches across South Africa for former President Nelson Mandela, who has spent a third night in hospital for treatment for a lung infection.

Officials have provided no update since Saturday when his condition was described as serious but stable.

However, the BBC's Karen Allen in Pretoria says relatives who visited him on Sunday appeared in positive mood.

Mr Mandela, 94, was admitted to a Pretoria hospital early on Saturday.

The presidency said he had been ill for some days.

"It's time to let him go" reads the main headline in South Africa's Sunday Times this morning. It quotes Nelson Mandela's friend and fellow struggle veteran Andrew Mlangeni, urging Mandela's family to "release him spiritually and put their faith in the hands of God". But in most other local papers, the frail Nelson Mandela's latest hospitalisation is treated - as one might, perhaps, expect after so many previous "scares" - with far less sense of drama.

The City Press leads on a new twist in the long-running scandal of President Zuma's lavish home refurbishments, while the tabloid Sunday World is more preoccupied with celebrity stories. The Sowetan Live website captures something of the increasingly phlegmatic public attitude towards Mr Mandela's fading health by quoting this Tweet - "Let him die with dignity. It's not a circus folks." While others urge the 94-year-old to fight on, a man in Mandela's home village, is quoted as saying "I think we should just accept it that Mandela is old and he will go soon."

The Mail and Guardian website focuses on the "vile" comment of Nick Griffin, head of the British National Party, who called Mandela a "murdering old terrorist."

It is the third time this year he has been admitted to hospital.

Hundreds of worshippers attended Mass on Sunday at Soweto's Regina Mundi church, famous for its role in the anti-apartheid campaign.

"I think it's just a natural experience that everybody wants to hold on to him as much as possible," acting priest Father Sebastian Rossouw said.

"He's always in our prayers."

Our correspondent says there is a sense of calm across South Africa, and also a quiet hope that the man who led the fight against apartheid may regain his strength once again.

While the absence of any official updates did little to help the speculation, she adds, many took heart from a visit by Mr Mandela's daughter, Zindzi, who said that her father was "well" and "a fighter".

Mr Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, cancelled a scheduled appearance in London on Saturday to remain at her husband's bedside.

The South African broadcaster SABC reported that a car which brought another daughter, Makiziwe, to the hospital on Saturday was seen again on Sunday.

On Saturday, presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said that although Mr Mandela was again suffering from pneumonia, he was breathing on his own - "a positive sign".

South African President Jacob Zuma has continued to attend engagements but has indicated that he will visit Mr Mandela if doctors advise him to do so.

Nelson Mandela: Key dates

  • 1918 Born in the Eastern Cape
  • 1943 Joins African National Congress
  • 1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped
  • 1962 Arrested, convicted of sabotage, sentenced to five years in prison
  • 1964 Charged again, sentenced to life
  • 1990 Freed from prison
  • 1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1994 Elected first black president
  • 1999 Steps down as leader
  • 2004 Retires from public life

Nelson Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999.

He was previously imprisoned for 27 years, and is believed to have suffered damaged lungs while working in a prison quarry.

He contracted tuberculosis in the 1980s while being held in jail on the windswept Robben Island.

He retired from public life in 2004 and has been rarely seen in public since.

Mr Mandela was receiving care at his Johannesburg home when his lung problems flared up again.

He was admitted to hospital after his condition worsened at 01:30 on Saturday (23:30 GMT Friday).

British Prime Minister David Cameron has said Mr Mandela is in his thoughts, while the White House has also sent good wishes.

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