Nelson Mandela condition 'unchanged - still serious'

Nelson Mandela on his 94th birthday, July 2012 Nelson Mandela has been admitted to hospital three times this year

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South Africa's ex-President Nelson Mandela remains in a serious but stable condition in a Pretoria hospital, according to the latest update.

The presidency said Mr Mandela's condition was unchanged and confirmed that he was in intensive care.

His former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, visited him on Monday.

Mr Mandela, 94, was admitted to hospital early on Saturday for the third time this year. He is being treated for a lung infection.

The government said in a statement: "President Jacob Zuma reiterates his call for South Africa to pray for Madiba and the family during this time." Madiba is Mr Mandela's clan name.

The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Johannesburg looks at how South Africa's newspapers have been covering the latest news about Nelson Mandela's health

In releasing the latest update, presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj also denied that visitors were being blocked from seeing Mr Mandela.

He said: "The reality is that the normal procedures when a patient is under intensive care are applying from the medical side.

"Therefore there are limitations on visitors and, you know, that when a person is in intensive care the doctors only allow some very close people to be there - it is not the way it is being presented in the media."

The presidency said Mr Mandela had been ill for some days at his Johannesburg home, with a recurrence of his long-standing lung problems.

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

'A fighter'

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
  • 2010 Last public appearance - at World Cup finals

The BBC's Karen Allen in Pretoria says there is a quiet hope that the man who led the fight against apartheid may regain his strength once again.

She says that many took heart from a visit on Sunday 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.

His eldest daughter, Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, was returning to South Africa from Argentina, where she is the ambassador, to visit her father, family sources said.

Prayers have been said in churches across the country for Mr Mandela.

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.

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