JOHANNESBURG Former South Africa President Nelson Mandela's health has improved, his grandson said Saturday as the 94-year-old spent his eighth day in the hospital recovering from a lung infection.
Mandla Mandela said that when he left his grandfather in Pretoria, before heading to Qunu for a family memorial, "we saw the improvement in his health."
"The old man is not only ours, but he is for the people of South Africa, Africa, and the whole world," he said at the funeral of elderly cousin, Florence Nondlela Mandela, in Mandela's home village in South Africa's Eastern Cape. "We would like to say, even tomorrow, these prayers are the ones that will make him strong, so that he can feel better and rise from that hospital bed."
Dozens of children traveled from Soweto to the northern Johannesburg suburb of Houghton where Mandela lives. In light blue hats, white and orange tops, and blue skirts, some held mini South African flags and marched down the street, singing the national anthem. Others in the group held posters that said "We love you Tata," and "Long Live."
"What made us to come here today is because of we heard that our old man is in hospital," said Chris Gumbi the chairman of the African Kids Group. "Please wake up where you are, we need you, I mean, South Africans they need you. I think the whole world is shaking now so we need the old man."
The children then left their posters against a wall outside the beloved statesman's home.
Mandela's daughters, Zindzi, Makaziwe and Zenani Dlamini were among those who visited the anti-apartheid leader Saturday in a Pretoria hospital.
"We would like to extend our appreciation to all the doctors and the nurses who took care of him," Mandla Mandela said from Qunu, adding that they were grateful to the government for continuing to give the public updates on Mandela's progress.
Saturday's update was the first since Thursday, when President Jacob Zuma said that Mandela was continuing to improve but remains in serious condition.
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.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been particularly vulnerable to respiratory problems since contracting tuberculosis during his long imprisonment. The bulk of that period was spent on Robben Island, an outpost off the coast of Cape Town where Mandela and other prisoners spent part of the time toiling in a stone quarry.