JOHANNESBURG (AP) - South Africa celebrated Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday on Thursday, a milestone capped by news that the former president's health was improving after fears that he was close to death during ongoing hospital treatment.
"Madiba remains in hospital in Pretoria but his doctors have confirmed that his health is steadily improving," said a statement from President Jacob Zuma, referring to Mandela by his popular clan name.
"We are proud to call this international icon our own as South Africans and wish him good health," Zuma said in the statement. He thanked South Africans for supporting Mandela during his hospitalization with "undying love and compassion" and responding to a call to give the beloved figure "the biggest birthday celebration ever this year."
PHOTOS: Nelson Mandela through the years - http://bit.ly/15oFVV8
Mandela was taken to a hospital on June 8 for treatment for a recurring lung infection. In previous announcements, the government said he was in critical but stable condition. Court documents filed by Mandela's family earlier this month had said Mandela was on life support and near death.
Mandela is making "remarkable progress," said one of his daughters, Zindzi, on Thursday, after tense weeks in which some South Africans talked about the possibility that Mandela was on the verge of dying.