JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The doctors treating former South African leader Nelson Mandela believe he should remain in Johannesburg for now to be close to medical facilities that can provide care to the 94-year-old, the government said Thursday.
Mandela left a hospital Wednesday evening after nearly three weeks of treatment there, and was brought to his home in the Johannesburg neighborhood of Houghton. The anti-apartheid icon, also known by his clan name, Madiba, has spent more time in recent years in the rural village of Qunu in Eastern Cape province, where he grew up.
Mandela's grandson, Mandla Mandela, said he hopes "it won't be too long before he's with us back in Qunu, where he belongs," but acknowledged that the doctors' assessment is critical to any decision to travel.
"It can be a strenuous trip," the grandson said in an interview with eNCA, a South African television news channel. "We will await the feedback from the doctors as to when he will be fit and ready to come back home."
Mandela was admitted Dec. 8 to a hospital in the South African capital of Pretoria, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Johannesburg. The ex-president was treated for a lung infection and also had a procedure to remove gallstones.
"Where Madiba goes, in which period, in which times, is a matter that is entirely dependent on his own wishes. Whatever he wishes, we will do," presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told eNCA.
"But right now, the doctors have considered it necessary and good that he should be in Houghton so that he's close to all the facilities where we can give him high care," Maharaj said.
Maharaj noted that Mandela had been in good spirits while receiving President Jacob Zuma and other visitors while he was hospitalized.
"Madiba was doing well, but as you know, when you're recovering there are ups and downs, slight ups and downs, and the doctors are looking for a steady progress and that began to be registered over the last few days," the spokesman said.
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.
Maharaj said Mandela is able to see his family "more easily" now that he is at home, but he appealed to the public to respect the former president's privacy "to allow the best possible conditions for his full recovery."