Nelson Mandela was given a clean bill of health and left hospital on Sunday after a minor diagnostic procedure, soothing fears over the beloved nonagenarian’s health.
South Africa’s former president was admitted to hospital on Saturday for a keyhole operation to investigate persistent abdominal discomfort, raising alarms about the man revered as the symbol of South Africa’s post-apartheid reconciliation.
“The doctors have decided to send him home as the diagnostic procedure he underwent did not indicate anything seriously wrong with him,” President Jacob Zuma’s office said in a statement.
Presidency spokesperson Harold Maloka said Mandela, 93, was recovering at home in the leafy Johannesburg suburb Houghton, where he returned in January from his childhood village in the Eastern Cape, 800km from the country’s economic hub.
“He is resting with family,” Maloka told reporters.
Mandela underwent a diagnostic laparoscopy, a procedure in which doctors make small incisions in the abdomen to probe it with a tiny camera.
Shortly before his discharge was announced, Zuma said Mandela, known affectionately as Madiba, was relaxed and comfortable after his night’s stay in hospital and was surrounded by his family.
“The doctors have assured us that there is nothing to worry about and that Madiba is in good health,” Zuma said.
Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, whose ministry is charged with Mandela’s health care, earlier said “there never was anything wrong with him”, but that the investigative surgery was needed to get to the bottom of his discomfort.
“He’s fine, he is recovering from anaesthetic and he is as fine as can be at his age. He is fine and handsome,” Sisulu told reporters in Cape Town, refuting reports that Mandela had hernia surgery.
Norman Mabasa, chair of the South African Medical Association, said the procedure involved a “very small puncture hole”.
“You can look inside and magnify that on a screen, and as you move your probe you’re able to see the various organs to look at whether they are okay,” he told reporters.
“You’re automatically concerned about any illness at that age,” he added.
“That’s why even the smallest itch, you take it seriously, because you don’t want to take things mildly at that age. You want the elderly not to be sick, because once they are sick you get worried about whether that will be the last blow.”
The ruling African National Congress, which Mandela led into power 18 years ago, expressed thanks for the prayers and messages for him.
“Our collective support is proof once more that Madiba is the father of our nation.”
Officials moved quickly to announce Mandela’s hospitalisation and to issue updates, reassuring that it was a planned and not an emergency admission.
But they refused to say where he was being treated, appealing for privacy.
The media generally praised the South African government for handling the episode better than Mandela’s last hospitalisation, when he underwent two days of treatment for an acute respiratory infection in January 2011.
Then, the government and Mandela’s foundation kept the media largely in the dark about his care, initially described as “routine” testing.
Mandela is beloved for leading South Africa from the days of white-minority rule to democracy, and commands huge respect internationally.
Rumours over his health flare up periodically, and his last public appearance was last July.
Mandela was released from 27 years in prison in 1990 and was elected South Africa’s first black president four years later. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and served one term before stepping down in 1999