Nelson Mandela 'responding better' to treatment

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - Former South African president and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela was responding better to treatment in hospital early on Wednesday, South African President Jacob Zuma told Parliament.

"I am happy to report that Madiba is responding better to treatment from this morning," MR Zuma told a scheduled budget hearing, using Mr Mandela's clan name.

Mr Mandela spent a fifth straight day on Wednesday in a Pretoria hospital, where he was visited by one of his daughters and two granddaughters.

Mr Zuma noted that Wednesday marked the 49th anniversary of the sentencing of Mr Mandela to life in prison in 1964. He said "our thoughts" are with Mr Mandela and his family "on this crucial historical anniversary".

"We are very happy with the progress that he is now making following a difficult last few days," Mr Zuma said. "We appreciate the messages of support from all over the world."

Mr Zuma on Wednesday applauded the legacy of Mr Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists. South Africa's government disbanded its official policy of apartheid - racial segregation and discrimination - in 1994.

"Our country is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994, even though we still have so much work to do," Mr Zuma said.

Mr Mandela, the leader of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, spent 27 years in prison during white racist rule. He was freed in 1990, and then embarked on peacemaking efforts during the tense transition that saw the demise of the apartheid system and his own election as South Africa's first black president in 1994.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished Mr Mandela a "speedy recovery" on Tuesday.

His admission to a hospital in Pretoria, the capital, is Mr Mandela's fourth since December.

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