Journalists from local and international media stayed put at Pretoria's 1 Military Hospital as former president Nelson Mandela spent a fifth day at the tightly secured facility for treatment to a lung infection. Photo: AP

Pretoria -

Passing motorists showered journalists with questions at 1 Military Hospital on Thursday where they were awaiting news on the condition of former president Nelson Mandela.

Motorists stopping at a traffic-light along the busy Voortrekker Road next to the Pretoria hospital sought updates on Mandela's health.

“Tell me please, is he still here? Has he been discharged?,” enquired a motorist.

“What are they saying? When is he going to be discharged?” asked another.

“Tell him we wish him well, and good luck to you guys!” said another motorist as she drove off.

Others left messages of support. Some waved and hooted at the journalists.

Mandela was admitted to the hospital on Saturday to be treated for the recurrence of a lung infection.

Commuters and motorists curiously observed the large contingent of journalists from local and international media camping outside the hospital.

Apart from the cars belonging to journalists, four outside broadcast vans were also parked alongside Voortrekker Road, overlooking the main entrance of the institution.

Some media houses were doing shifts for journalists to be at the facility all the time. Morning teams were replaced by evening teams.

The hospital is part of the Thaba Tshwane Military Base, a national security zone.

Soldiers were manning the hospital's main entrance, using plastic cones to control the movement of vehicles.

In the morning, some news crews headed for the main entrance, aiming for close-up shots of the hospital's buildings, but the soldiers turned them back.

Every vehicle entering the premises was being inspected.

On Thursday, no high profile visitors were seen driving through the main entrance.

Mandela's current stay at the hospital has 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 had contracted tuberculosis while in prison.

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 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 responding to 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 about his health and usually releases a statement later in the day with an update. - Sapa