Former South African President Nelson Mandela is undergoing specialized tests in hospital and there is no reason to panic over his health, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Friday.
Mandela, 92, was admitted to hospital on Wednesday, prompting fears for the anti-apartheid icon who led South Africa as its first black president and is revered at home and abroad as a symbol of reconciliation and hope.
A source close to Mandela told Reuters on Thursday he was recovering from a collapsed lung and could leave hospital as early as Friday. His foundation said he had been admitted for routine tests.
Motlanthe said Mandela was in good spirits and given his age and medical history, the tests were needed to ensure he got the best care. "Medically there is no need to panic. Dr. Mandela suffers from (an) ailment common to people of his age, and conditions that have developed over years. We may recall that he has suffered from tuberculosis whilst on Robben Island and has had previous respiratory infections," Motlanthe said.
Mandela was diagnosed with tuberculosis in the 1980s while he was jailed and later had an operation to repair damage to his eyes. In 2001 he had treatment for prostate cancer. He was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years imprisonment.
President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress appealed for calm after the hospitalization set off speculation in local media about Mandela's health and brought family members and dignitaries rushing to the hospital.
Zuma, who was attending the annual World Economic Forum in Switzerland, left Davos on Friday morning and will miss panels he was due to address but organizers said his departure was not linked to Mandela's hospitalisation.
Zuma's spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the South African President was on his way to Addis Adaba for an African Union summit.
Mandela has not been seen in public since the soccer World Cup final in July last year, when he made a brief appearance waving from a golf cart.
There has been no word from Johannesburg's Milpark Hospital, the government or Mandela's foundation on the precise nature of his illness. Motlanthe indicated it was related to a respiratory problem but gave no further details.
Motlanthe is due to address a press conference at the hospital at 5:30 a.m. ET, a government spokesman said.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a collapsed lung, pneumothorax, is "the collection of air in the space around the lungs," making it more difficult to breathe.
It is not life threatening and treatment can vary from allowing the body to repair the problem on its own to placing a tube in the chest to relieve the pressure.
Several members of Mandela's family, including his wife Graca Machel, visited the hospital after his admission. The White House said President Barack Obama's thoughts were with Mandela.
Mandela retired from public life in June 2004 before his 86th birthday, telling his compatriots: "Don't call me, I'll call you."
Since then he has rarely appeared in public and when he did, he appeared increasingly frail. In addition to the World Cup, Mandela appeared at a couple of ANC rallies before general elections in 2009.