JOHANNESBURG — Former South African president Nelson Mandela remained in "serious but stable" condition Saturday as government officials confirmed news reports that the ambulance which took the anti-apartheid leader to the hospital broke down, an embarrassing failure of basic services for the troubled government.
Consistent with previous updates from the presidency, the statement shows that the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero's health is little changed since his admission to a Pretoria hospital two weeks ago.
Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president in 1994, was rushed to a Pretoria hospital early on June 8 with a recurring respiratory infection.
The presidency also confirmed that the intensive care ambulance carrying Mandela to hospital broke down. Media reports said Mandela was stranded for 40 minutes.
Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said the former president was transferred to another military ambulance for the remainder of the almost 50 minute journey between Johannesburg and the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria.
"All care was taken to ensure that former president Mandela's medical condition was not compromised by the unforeseen incident," Maharaj said. He would not say how long Mandela's journey to hospital had been delayed by the breakdown.
Doctors attending to Madiba, the clan name by which Mandela is popularly known, were satisfied that he suffered no harm during this period, he said.
Failure to deliver basic services under the African National Congress-led government has sparked violent protests across the country this year and are campaign points for political parties jostling for position ahead of next year's election.
Mandela's history of lung problems dates back to his time at Robben Island prison near Cape Town. He was released in 1990 after 27 years and went on to serve as president from 1994 to 1999.
His hospitalization is the fourth since December.
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