Mandela’s condition improving, South African president says

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Former President Nelson Mandela began responding better to treatment Wednesday morning for a recurring lung infection following “a difficult last few days,” South Africa’s president said.

President Jacob Zuma told parliament that he is happy with the progress that the 94-year-old is making following his hospitalization on Saturday.

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

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

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

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.

His admission to a hospital in Pretoria, the capital, is Mandela’s fourth time being admitted to a hospital for treatment since December. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama wished Mandela a “speedy recovery” on Tuesday.