JOHANNESBURG -- Former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa was hospitalized early Saturday to be treated for a recurring lung infection, the South African government said. It was the fourth time in less than a year that the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader has been hospitalized, deepening concern about his increasing frailty.
"During the past few days former President Nelson Mandela has had a recurrence of lung infection," President Jacob Zuma said in a statement. "This morning at about 1:30 a.m. his condition deteriorated, and he was transferred to a Pretoria hospital. He remains in a serious but stable condition."
Mr. Mandela's wife, the children's rights activist Graça Machel, canceled a speaking trip to England to be by his side, a government spokesman said. Mr. Mandela was breathing on his own, the spokesman added.
Mr. Mandela has had chronic lung problems since contracting tuberculosis during his 27-year imprisonment for fighting apartheid. He emerged from prison in 1990 to lead the African National Congress in negotiating an end to white minority rule, and in 1994 he was elected South Africa's first black president.
He served just one term, stepping aside in 1999. He has been largely absent from public life since 2004, and was last seen publicly in 2010 during the World Cup soccer championship, which South Africa hosted.
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.
Comments from South African officials suggested that this hospitalization was more serious than previous ones. Jackson Mthembu, a spokesman for the African National Congress, told Britain's Sky News that the party was "prepared for the worst."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.