JOHANNESBURG – Former President Nelson Mandela began responding better to treatment Wednesday morning for a recurring lung infection following "a difficult last few days," South Africa's president said.
President Jacob Zuma told parliament that he is happy with the progress that the 94-year-old international icon is making following his hospitalization on Saturday.
Mandela spent a fifth straight day Wednesday in a Pretoria hospital, where he was visited by one of his daughters and two granddaughters.
Zuma noted that Wednesday marked the 49th anniversary of the sentencing of Mandela to life in prison in 1964. He said "our thoughts" are with Mandela and his family "on this crucial historical anniversary."
"We are very happy with the progress that he is now making following a difficult last few days," Zuma said. "We appreciate the messages of support from all over the world."
Zuma on Wednesday applauded the legacy of Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists. South Africa's government disbanded its official policy of apartheid -- racial segregation and discrimination -- in 1994.
"Our country is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994, even though we still have so much work to do," Zuma said.
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.
President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama wished Mandela a "speedy recovery" on Tuesday.
His admission to a hospital in Pretoria, the capital, is Mandela's fourth time being admitted to a hospital for treatment since December.