Johannesburg — Former South African President Nelson Mandela is recovering after a successful gallstone operation.
The anti-apartheid icon has been hospitalized since December 8 in the South African capital of Pretoria to undergo a number of medical tests. He was being treated for a recurring lung infection before doctors decided to remove the gallstones as well. The South African government said there was no cause for alarm over Mandela’s hospitalization, and current president Jacob Zuma said that he was receiving medical attention “which is consistent with his age.”
“The procedure was successful, and Madiba is recovering,” the Office of the Presidency said in a statement. Madiba is Mandela’s Xhosa clan name.
Mandela has been retired from public life since 2004 and spends most of his time in his childhood village of Qunu. His last public appearance was at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
This latest hospital stay has been Mandela’s longest hospitalization since being released from prison in February 1990. His last stay in a public hospital in 2011 raised concerns as the South African military took control of his health care and the government took control of information about his health.
Saturday, the South African National Editors’ Forum criticized the government for not being transparent with the media about the former president’s hospitalization. The forum includes members from television broadcasts, newspapers, and radio stations. It also includes members from the Foreign Correspondents Association of Southern Africa.
“Senior government representatives have sought to justify misleading statements about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Mandela’s whereabouts on the basis of irresponsible conduct by print and broadcast news organizations,” the forum said in a statement. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, turned 94 in July. Former president Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, spent the day with Mandela in the Qunu. The two presidential terms overlapped, and Clinton called Mandela a “wonderful friend.”