]The former South African president, Nelson Mandela, is seriously ill in hospital with a lung infection.
The 94-year-old has been ill for some days but his condition deteriorated overnight. It is his fifth stay in hospital in two years.
Keith Khoza, a spokesman for the ruling Africa National Congress (ANC), said it was time to “hold hands and pray”.
An official statement described Mandela’s condition as “serious but stable”, adding that he was “receiving expert medical care” and that doctors were doing “everything possible to make him better and comfortable”.
The former president was said to be breathing unaided, which was described as “a positive sign”.
Mandela was robust during his decades as a public figure, endowed with charisma, a powerful memory and an extraordinary talent for articulating the aspirations of his people and winning over many of those who opposed him.
In recent years, however, he has become more frail and last made a public appearance at the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament, where he didn’t deliver an address and was bundled against the cold.
In another recent hospitalization, Mandela was treated for a lung infection and had a procedure to remove gallstones in December. In March, he spent a night in a hospital for what authorities said was a scheduled medical test.