Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa and Nobel Prize winner, was finally released from the hospital after a three month stay, the longest since he was released from prison in 1990. A report from former President George W. Bush said that Mandela had died, but South african officials worked quickly to dispel that rumor Sunday morning.
Mandela was admitted to the hospital with a lung infection at the beginning of June, a health concern that had been bothering him for the past few months and dating back to his notorious 27 years in jail. But the 95-year-old former leader was finally released to his home, where he will still receive intensive care, South African President Jacob Zuma announced on Saturday. Zuma said his condition is "at times unstable," but explained the same team who cared for Mandela at the Pretoria hospital would be working with him from home. "If there are health conditions that warrant another admission to hospital in future, this will be done," Zuma said in his statement
Mandela was hospitalized for the fourth time in eight months early on June 8 after he came down with pneumonia for the second time in four months. His condition worsened, going from "serious but stable" to "critical," while receiving care at the hospital. Mandela was put on life support at the end of June and the outlook was poor. South African President Jacob Zuma canceled some travel plans after visiting with Mandela, and the former president's eldest daughter didn't pull any punches with her assessment of the situation: "I won't lie, it doesn't look good," Makaziwe told South African radio at the end of June.
Mandela's lungs were first damaged when he contracted tuberculosis working in a quarry as perhaps the most famous political prisoner of modern times, but Mandela's health took a turn in January, when he spent 18 days in a South African hospital, then his longest hospital stay since his release in 1990. He returned twice in March; one stay was brief, the other was for ten days.
There was a moment Sunday morning when the office of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush confused some on social media after releasing a statement announcing that Mandela had died. Bush's touching statement, though sent prematurely, per Politico:
“Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know,” the statement said. “As President, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment — setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all. He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country. Barbara and I had great respect for President Mandela, and send our condolences to his family and countrymen.”
Bush's spokesperson Jim McGrath quickly walked back the statement on Twitter, blaming a Washington Post newsflash for the confusion.