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Pretoria - Eight soldiers were manning the main entrance of 1 Military Hospital on Thursday morning, as former president Nelson Mandela spent a sixth day at the tightly secured facility for treatment of a lung infection.
The institution is situated on the outskirts of Pretoria along the busy Voortrekker Road, leading into the Thaba Tshwane Military Base, a national security zone.
Before 10am, journalists from local and international media had parked more than 10 vehicles - including outside broadcast vans - in an open space overlooking the hospital's main entrance.
News crews made for the main entrance, aiming for close-up shots of the hospital’s buildings, but the soldiers turned them back. Each vehicle entering the premises was being searched.
Two military police soldiers were posted close to the media contingent.
The former president, 94, was hospitalised at the weekend. He was flown from his home in Qunu, Eastern Cape, on Saturday, to the Pretoria facility.
The presidency said he was suffering from the recurrence of a previous lung infection and was responding to treatment.
Mandela’s current stay at the hospital had become his longest continuous period in hospital since 2001, when he underwent seven weeks of radiotherapy after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was 83 at the time.
In January 2011, Mandela was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital for what turned out to be an acute respiratory infection. He also contracted tuberculosis while in prison.
Mandela is revered for being a leader of the struggle against racist white rule in South Africa, and for preaching reconciliation once he emerged from prison in 1990, after 27 years behind bars.
He served one five-year term as president before retiring from public life.
On Wednesday, the presidency announced that Mandela was making progress during his treatment.
“Doctors attending to former president Mandela have reported that he has made progress and are satisfied with the way he is responding to treatment,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said.
His health and recovery remained a topic of interest locally and internationally.
Actor Bill Cosby, whose “The Cosby Show” is being rerun on SABC3, was among those. He posted a message on his facebook page asking: “Who knows how to say 'get well soon TATA Mandela' in Xhosa?” and received numerous suggestions.
The Nelson Mandela facebook page was filled with messages for Mandela.
The presidency is in charge of communicating on his health and usually releases a statement later in the day with an update. -Sapa