JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s leader called on his country Thursday to remember Nelson Mandela not only for his years as the nation’s first black president but also for his time as a revolutionary and a prisoner as the beloved hero spent his sixth day in the hospital.
In an address to parliament, President Jacob Zuma said South Africans should not create a “superficial” image of Mandela but remember his lifetime of work.
Zuma also spoke of the need to improve the lives of the country’s black majority, many of whom live in poverty nearly two decades after the end of racist white rule.
Mandela is being treated for a recurring lung infection. There was no update on his condition as of Thursday evening, though Zuma on Wednesday had reported that Mandela was responding better to treatment.
Family members again visited the former president on Thursday.
The leader of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, Mandela spent 27 years in prison during white racist rule. He was freed in 1990 and became South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
Mandela’s official Twitter feed noted that Thursday was the 49th anniversary of the former president’s arrival at Robben Island, the prison off the coast of Cape Town where he spent the majority of his incarceration.