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Mandela, in critical condition, visited by South African leader

| Sunday, June 23, 2013, 8:06 p.m.

JOHANNESBURG — Nelson Mandela's health has deteriorated, and he is in critical condition, the South African government said on Sunday.

The office of President Jacob Zuma said in a statement that he had visited the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader in a hospital in the evening and was informed by doctors that Mandela's condition had become critical in the past 24 hours.

The White House issued a statement, saying: “Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and the people of South Africa.”

Zuma met Graca Machel, Mandela's wife, in the hospital in Pretoria and discussed the former leader's condition, according to the statement. Zuma's spokesman said that this was a stressful time for the Mandela family and appealed for their privacy.

Mandela was hospitalized on June 8 for what the government said was a recurring lung infection.

Describing his condition as critical will be very worrying for South Africans, many of whom consider him a family member.

Mandela was jailed for 27 years under racist rule and released in 1990. He played a crucial role in steering the divided country from the apartheid era to democracy, becoming South Africa's first black president in all-race elections in 1994.

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