JOHANNESBURG -- Former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa was in intensive care on Monday, the third day of his latest hospitalization for a recurring lung infection, South African officials said.
"His condition is unchanged," President Jacob Zuma said in a terse statement.
Mr. Mandela, 94, was admitted on Saturday morning, his fourth hospitalization since late last year, when he spent nearly 19 days being treated for pneumonia and having an operation for gallstones. The repeated crises, along with his frail appearance, have stirred concern around the world.
Now, appeals from Mr. Zuma and other top officials for prayers for Mr. Mandela have raised the possibility that he is near death. Several members of the Mandela family have visited him, according to local journalists who have been staking out the Pretoria hospital where he is believed to be.
Mr. Mandela's wife, the children's rights activist Graça Machel, canceled a speech in Britain to remain by his side.
Comments from South African officials seemed to indicate that this hospitalization was more serious than the previous ones. Jackson Mthembu, a spokesman for the African National Congress, told Britain's Sky News that the party was "prepared for the worst."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu's foundation released a statement honoring Mr. Mandela as "the beloved father of our nation," and praying for his "comfort and dignity." Mr. Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, from whom he has long been estranged, arrived at the hospital on Monday, with one of their daughters.
Mr. Mandela contracted tuberculosis during his 27-year imprisonment for fighting apartheid, and he has suffered from chronic lung problems. He left prison in 1990 and led the African National Congress in negotiating an end to white rule. He was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994, leading the nation into a reconciliation process that sought to give citizens of all races equal voice and seeking to avert efforts to extract revenge on whites for decades of sometimes brutal oppression.
He has been largely absent from public life since 2004.
As Mr. Mandela's health has deteriorated, an increasingly ugly battle over his legacy and money has erupted, with two of his daughters suing his close confidant George Bizos over access to a trust fund that Mr. Mandela set up for his descendants.
Even the African National Congress, the party to which Mr. Mandela dedicated his life, has come under harsh criticism for releasing a video of party leaders visiting the visibly ailing former president.world
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.