JOHANNESBURG -- The condition of former President Nelson Mandela is improving, according to South African government officials, as the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon spent his fifth day in the hospital on Monday being treated for pneumonia.
Mr. Mandela has been hospitalized three times in the past four months, spending almost three weeks in December being treated for a lung infection and undergoing surgery for gallstones. He has not been seen publicly since 2010 and is in frail health.
"President Nelson Mandela had a restful day and continues to receive treatment," the government said in a statement released Sunday. "Government is satisfied that the doctors are providing the former president with the best medical care possible to enable his recovery and comfort. They have reported a further improvement in his condition."
On Saturday, the government gave more details on Mr. Mandela's health, saying he "had developed a pleural effusion which was tapped."
"This has resulted in him now being able to breathe without difficulty," it said.
Lung infections have been a persistent problem for Mr. Mandela, who contracted tuberculosis during his 27 years in prison at the hands of the apartheid government. Mr. Mandela was convicted for his involvement in the fight against the brutal system of white minority rule that governed South Africa, and in his decades in prison he became a potent symbol of the struggle for equality and justice.
After his release in 1990, he led the African National Congress through negotiations that would end white rule. His lack of bitterness and emphasis on forgiveness, not vengeance, toward the white government that had jailed him set the stage for the largely peaceful transition to majority rule in South Africa.
When the country held its first fully democratic elections in 1994, Mr. Mandela won in a landslide. He served just one term as president, handing over the reins to his deputy, Thabo Mbeki, in 1999. Mr. Mandela set up a foundation to work on children's health, education and other issues. He became an outspoken advocate for people with AIDS, even as Mr. Mbeki pursued disastrous policies that helped spread the disease and make it more deadly.
In 2004, Mr. Mandela announced that he was retiring from public life. His last public appearance was at the World Cup soccer tournament, which South Africa hosted in 2010.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.