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Mandela still 'stable but critical', responds to treatment

File photo taken on July 17, 2012 shows former South African President Nelson Mandela during a visit by former US president Bill Clinton at his home in Qunu, Eastern Cape
A file photo taken on July 17, 2012 shows former South African President Nelson Mandela during a visit by former US president Bill Clinton at his home in Qunu, Eastern Cape

Nelson Mandela remains in a "stable but critical" condition, but "continues to respond to treatment", the South African government said in its first update on his health since September.

"The health of the former President remains much the same," according to a statement issued after President Jacob Zuma visited the anti-apartheid icon at his home Monday.

The 95-year-old was discharged on September 1 to receive intensive care at home, after nearly three months in hospital for a lung infection.

The government has refused to give details about his condition, citing the need for privacy, but said "he continues to recover".

Mandela's former wife Winnie this week told a local newspaper that he remains "quite ill" and is unable to speak because of tubes being used to clear his lungs of liquid.

He is using facial expressions to communicate, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela added.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner is under the care of 22 doctors, and while his pneumonia has cleared, his lungs remain sensitive, she said, adding that it was "difficult for him".

"He remains very sensitive to any germs, so he has to be kept literally sterile. The bedroom there (in Houghton) is like an ICU ward," she told the Sunday Times.

"He remains quite ill, but thank God the doctors were able to pull him through from that (last) infection."

Mandela, who spent 27 years in apartheid jails before becoming South Africa's first black leader, has faced several health scares.

His most recent 86-day hospital stay was his longest since he walked free from prison in 1990.

Earlier this month, fellow Robben Island prisoner Tokyo Sexwale also said Mandela was "fine".

Mandela has been in and out of hospital since last year with lung-related complications.

A globally admired figure for steering South Africa peacefully into democracy, Mandela's health problems prompted outpourings of well wishes around the world.

South Africa's presidency said that Zuma had also conveyed the well wishes of South Africans and of leaders who attended a recent Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka.

Zuma, according to his office, also told Mandela that he was "looking forward" to officially opening the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory later in the day.

The president is scheduled to inaugurate a multi-purpose public centre that will run an exhibition on the life and times of South Africa's first black leader.

The centre is located within the same complex that houses the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, an upmarket suburb north of Johannesburg.

November 18 marks the day, 20 years ago, when a panel of political negotiators approved an interim constitution for South Africa and an electoral bill that would clear the way for the historic 27 April 1994 polls.

Two days earlier, on 16 November 1993, Mandela and the last apartheid president FW de Klerk, had agreed on the basic points allowing for the country's first democratic election.