JOHANNESBURG -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela was released Wednesday from the hospital after being treated for a lung infection and having gallstones removed, a government spokesman said. But the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon will continue to receive medical care at home.
Mandela had been in the hospital since Dec. 8. In recent days, officials have said he was improving and in good spirits, but doctors have taken extraordinary care with his health because of his age.
Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj says Mandela will receive more medical care at his Johannesburg home until he fully recovers. Maharaj requested that the public respect Mandela's privacy at this time.
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Mandela is revered around the world as a symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation, his legacy forged in the fight against apartheid, the system of white minority rule that imprisoned him for 27 years.
The Nobel laureate served one five-year term as president after South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994. Although the country today struggles with poverty and inequality, Mandela is widely credited with helping to avert race-driven chaos as South Africa emerged from apartheid
South African President Jacob Zuma was among those who joined Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, and other family members in wishing a Merry Christmas to Mandela at his hospital bedside in Pretoria, the South African capital.