JOHANNESBOURG, Afrique du Sud - L'ancien président sud-africain Nelson Mandela, âgé de 94 ans, souffre d'une nouvelle infection pulmonaire.

Les autorités gouvernementales ont fait savoir, mardi, que le célèbre patient semblait bien tolérer les traitements qui lui sont administrés dans un hôpital de Pretoria.

Cette nouvelle survient alors que le public et les journalistes du pays se demandent depuis quelques jours ce qui arrive à l'icône de la lutte contre l'apartheid. Jusqu'à mardi, les responsables du gouvernement chargés de diffuser des informations sur l'état de santé de M. Mandela avaient refusé de donner des détails précis sur son hospitalisation, appelant les citoyens à respecter le droit à la vie privée de leur ancien président bien-aimé.

L'an dernier, Nelson Mandela avait été hospitalisé pendant quelques jours pour une infection respiratoire aiguë. En février, des problèmes à l'estomac l'avaient de nouveau conduit à l'hôpital.

L'actuel président sud-africain Jacob Zuma a rendu visite à Nelson Mandela à l'hôpital samedi et a estimé que son illustre prédécesseur avait l'air confortable et entre de bonnes mains.

Nelson Mandela, surnommé «Madiba», est considéré comme un héros et un homme plus grand que nature dans son pays et ailleurs dans le monde.

Il est révéré pour avoir été un leader de la lutte contre le régime raciste de l'apartheid et pour avoir plaidé en faveur de la réconciliation après sa sortie de prison en 1990, après 27 ans de détention. Il a remporté les premières élections démocratiques de 1994 et est devenu le premier président noir d'Afrique du Sud.

Ses dernières apparitions publiques remontent à la Coupe du monde de soccer présentée en Afrique du Sud, en 2010.

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  • Nelson Mandela

    Former South African President Nelson Mandela, center, with his wife Graça Machel, left, as he celebrates his birthday with family in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday Wednesday.(AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Nelson Mandela

    Former South African President Nelson Mandela as he celebrates his birthday with family in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday Wednesday. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Nelson Mandela

    Former South African President Nelson Mandela as he celebrates his birthday in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday Wednesday.(AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Nelson Mandela

    Former South African President Nelson Mandela, center, with his wife Graça Machel, left, as he celebrates his birthday with family in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday Wednesday. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • South African schoolchildren hold signs

    South African schoolchildren hold signs as they prepare to sing happy birthday to former South African President Nelson Mandela, on his 94th birthday, at Batsogile Primary School in Soweto, on July 18, 2012. The nation's 12 million schoolchildren began their day with a special birthday song, ringing with the line: 'We love you father'. For the fourth year, at the request of his charitable foundation, July 18 is observed as Mandela Day, recognised by the United Nations as a global call to volunteer for good causes for 67 minutes -- representing each year of Mandela's life in active politics. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Miss South Africa 2011 Melinda Bam poses

    Miss South Africa 2011 Melinda Bam poses with schoolchildren preparing to sing happy birthday to former South African President Nelson Mandela, on his 94th birthday, at Batsogile Primary School in Soweto, on July 18, 2012. The nation's 12 million schoolchildren began their day with a special birthday song, ringing with the line: 'We love you father'. For the fourth year, at the request of his charitable foundation, July 18 is observed as Mandela Day, recognised by the United Nations as a global call to volunteer for good causes for 67 minutes -- representing each year of Mandela's life in active politics. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages)

  • South African schoolchildren sing happy

    South African schoolchildren sing happy birthday to former South African President Nelson Mandela as he turned 94 on July 18, 2012, at Batsogile Primary School in Soweto. The nation's 12 million schoolchildren began their day with a special birthday song, ringing with the line: 'We love you father'. For the fourth year, at the request of his charitable foundation, July 18 is observed as Mandela Day, recognised by the United Nations as a global call to volunteer for good causes for 67 minutes -- representing each year of Mandela's life in active politics. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages)

  • South African schoolchildren sing happy

    South African schoolchildren sing happy birthday to former South African President Nelson Mandela as he turned 94 on July 18, 2012, at Batsogile Primary School in Soweto. The nation's 12 million schoolchildren began their day with a special birthday song, ringing with the line: 'We love you father'. For the fourth year, at the request of his charitable foundation, July 18 is observed as Mandela Day, recognised by the United Nations as a global call to volunteer for good causes for 67 minutes -- representing each year of Mandela's life in active politics. AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN (Photo credit should read STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Nelson Mandela

    A woman carrying oranges on her head walks to a party in honor of former South African President Nelson Mandela during celebrations for Mandela's birthday in Mvezo, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Nelson Mandela

    A traditional performer shouts out during celebrations for former South African President, Nelson Mandela's birthday in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday Wednesday. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Nelson Mandela

    Children from a school where former South African President Nelson Mandela went as a child sing as they celebrate his birth day in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Nelson Mandela

    Members from the South African correctional service repair a wall at a school where former South African President Nelson Mandela went as a child as they celebrate his birthday in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Nelson Mandela

    A man seen on horse back, as former South African President Nelson Mandela celebrates his birthday in Mvezo, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Nelson Mandela

    Mandla Mandela, right, the grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela claps hands with children and other adults during celebrations for Mandela's birthday in Mvezo, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday Wednesday. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Nelson Mandela

    Children stand inline as Mandla Mandela, unseen, the grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela hands out books to them during celebrations for Mandela's birthday in Mvezo, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Children sing in celebration of former South African President Nelson Mandela's birthday in Mvezo, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

  • Nelson Mandela

    Children put on clothes that were given to them during celebration for former South African President Nelson Mandela's birthday in Mvezo, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Across the country, and even abroad, people are doing good deeds to honor the country's most famous statesman on his 94th birthday today. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)