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South African President to unveil statue of Mandela, says he's 'recuperating'

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June 17, 2010: In this file photo, former South African President, Nelson Mandela leaves the chapel after attending the funeral of his great-granddaughter Zenani Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa. (AP)

South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday honored anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who has been hospitalized since the weekend and who the president said is recovering from a lung infection.

Zuma was to unveil a statue of Mandela Thursday in the city of Bloemfontein, also called Mangaung, which next week hosts the ruling African National Congress party's convention.

"We will be able to yet again pay tribute to a man who became a symbol of both our struggle for freedom and the free and democratic South Africa," Zuma said.

Mandela, 94, was admitted on Saturday to 1 Military Hospital in the capital.

"As we meet, Madiba is recuperating from a lung infection at a Pretoria hospital," Zuma said, using Mandela's clan name. "We wish him a speedy recovery and assure him yet again of the love and support of many in the country and abroad."

Zuma made the remarks while dedicating an airport in the name of Bram Fischer, a white South African who was also a key figure in the struggle against apartheid, the system of racist white rule which collapsed in the 1994 elections which made Mandela the nation's first black president. Fischer was a Communist Party leader and a lawyer who defended Mandela at trial.

Mandela has a history of lung problems. He fell ill with tuberculosis in 1988 when he was still in prison. He largely retired from public life after serving one five-year term as president.