(File image) The 94-year-old statesmans ailing health has seen him spend the past two weeks in hospital, the longest period since he left prison.

Durban - Former president Nelson Mandela, who is recovering in a Pretoria hospital after undergoing a surgical procedure to remove gallstones and receiving treatment for a chronic lung infection, will probably spend Christmas in a hospital bed.

The 94-year-old statesman’s ailing health has seen him spend the past two weeks in hospital, the longest period since he left prison.

Mac Maharaj, spokesman for the Presidency, said on Saturday that Mandela’s physicians had given no indication of an “imminent discharge”.

When asked whether the Nobel laureate would return to his home in Qunu to spend Christmas with his family, Maharaj said he was unable to respond. “That is not a question that I can answer because that decision is solely guided by his doctors. At this stage there is no update on his condition and his doctors have given no indication about when Madiba will be discharged.”

A source at the hospital said Mandela was still receiving care and had not been moved.

“They (doctors) say there is no crisis, but add that they are in no hurry to send him home just yet until they are satisfied that he has made sufficient progress. We urge the public to continue supporting Madiba, but at the same time to understand that he is 94 years old and needs extraordinary care.”

President Jacob Zuma visited Mandela on Saturday and urged South Africans to pray for him.

Mandela was admitted to Pretoria’s 1 Military Hospital on December 8 after he was airlifted from Qunu, for what was described as treatment for a “condition consistent with his age”.

It later emerged Mandela had been moved to the Pretoria MediClinic Heart Hospital, despite several government officials offering misleading statements in an apparent attempt to throw off the press.

During the course of his convalescence, Maharaj has divulged that Mandela had received treatment for a chronic lung infection, the same ailment which is thought to have led to him going to hospital in February.

It would appear that his doctors were trying to stabilise his condition enough to perform gallstone surgery last Saturday.

Speaking for the first time on the severity of Mandela’s health, Zuma said he remained in a serious condition, but was responding well to treatment.

Updates on the Struggle icon’s health from the Presidency have been scant and typically indirect during his treatment in Pretoria.

Mandela’s medical history:

l 1985 – Surgery for an enlarged prostate gland.

l 1988 – While incarcerated, he is diagnosed with tuberculosis.

l 1994 – Eye surgery to remove a cataract.

l 2001 – Diagnosed with prostate cancer, receives radiotherapy and is later cleared of all illness.

l 2012 (February) – Is admitted to Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg for abdominal pain and a lung infection. - Sunday Tribune