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South Africa at crossroads as Mandela hospitalized

Nelson Mandela, 94, shown in 2010, is still a secular saint to South Africans.

Nelson Mandela, 94, shown in 2010, is still a secular saint to South Africans.

JOHANNESBURG — South Africans prayed Sunday for the health of former President Nelson Mandela and waited for word about the 94-year-old antiapartheid leader after he was admitted to a military hospital.

Mandela remains almost a secular saint and a father figure to many in South Africa. His hospitalization over the weekend for unspecified medical tests inspired huge newspaper headlines and ripples of fear in the public that the frail leader is fading further away.

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Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting racist white rule, became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 and served one five-year term. The Nobel laureate later retired from public life to live in his remote village of Qunu, in the Eastern Cape area, and last made a public appearance when his country hosted the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament.

On Saturday, the office of President Jacob Zuma announced Mandela had been admitted to a Pretoria hospital for medical tests and care that was consistent for his age.

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