midnight on Wednesday, the statement said, but the authorities delayed the announcement for several hours. The episode rekindled worries about his frailty. Mr. Mandela spent 19 days in December hospitalized for a lung infection and what government officials described as the surgical removal of gallstones. He returned earlier this month for what was termed a scheduled checkup. Mr. Mandela has struggled with lung problems since contracting tuberculosis during his 27 years in prison in the apartheid era, when his incarceration became a potent symbol in South Africa and around the world of the struggle to throw off a system of racial domination devised by the country’s white rulers.
Mr. Mandela led the A.N.C. through the negotiations that led to the first fully democratic elections in 1994 and the end of white minority rule. His name still resonates as an emblem of his effort to transcend decades of racial division and create what South Africans called a rainbow nation.