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Mandela in ‘good spirits’ in the hospital on Christmas

Nelson Mandela reads an advanced copy of his new book

From Robyn Curnow, CNN

(CNN) — South African icon Nelson Mandela was in good spirits on Christmas even though he was in the hospital, said President Jacob Zuma.

“He was happy to have visitors on this special day and is looking much better,” said Zuma, who visited Mandela in a Pretoria hospital Tuesday. “The doctors are happy with the progress that he is making.”

Mandela, 94, has received round-the-clock care since an acute respiratory infection in 2011. He was hospitalized for a lung infection on December 8; and on December 15, he had successful endoscopic surgery to have gallstones removed.

Mandela, the former South African president, has not appeared in public since the 2010 World Cup hosted in his country.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner spent 27 years in prison for fighting the oppression of blacks in South Africa. He became the nation’s first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed.

South Africa last month launched a new batch of banknotes with a picture of a smiling Mandela on the front.