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News of Mandela's condition causes South Africans to pray

| Saturday, June 8, 2013, 9:03 p.m.

JOHANNESBURG — Former South African President Nelson Mandela has been hospitalized in serious condition with a lung infection, according to government officials here, the latest in a worrisome series of medical ailments plaguing the nation's venerated leader.

The disclosure on Saturday caused his compatriots to catch their breath.

It's “serious this time,” said Mac Maharaj, President Jacob Zuma's spokesman. “Every day that he gets older, it gets more serious.”

The government's frank admission of his condition underscored the fears over the elderly statesman's increasing frailty.

African National Congress spokesman, Jackson Mthembu, told Sky News that the party was “prepared for the worst.” He said it was “time for the nation to hold hands and pray.”

Mandela's wife canceled an appearance in London at a summit on hunger and was at his bedside.

The Nobel peace laureate is revered around the world as a symbol of peace and forgiveness because he led South Africa into multi-race democracy as its first black president.

Mandela will turn 95 on July 18.

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