JOHANNESBURG — Former president Nelson Mandela was readmitted to the hospital late Wednesday because of a recurring lung infection, President Jacob Zuma said in a statement Thursday, appealing to people around the world to pray for Mandela.
It was the third time in four months that Mandela, 94, South Africa’s first black president and former leader of the dominant African National Congress, had been hospitalized. He was admitted Wednesday, but authorities delayed the announcement for several hours. The episode rekindled worries about his frailty.
Mandela spent 19 days in December hospitalized for a lung infection and what government officials described as the surgical removal of gallstones. He was readmitted this month for what was termed a scheduled checkup.
Mandela has struggled with lung problems since he contracted tuberculosis during his 27 years in prison in the apartheid era, when his incarceration became a potent symbol of the struggle to throw off a codified system of racial domination devised by the country’s white rulers.
Mandela led the ANC through the negotiations that led to the first fully democratic elections in 1994 and the end of white minority rule. His name still resonates as an emblem of his effort to transcend decades of racial division and create what South Africans called a rainbow nation.