Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who has been in the hospital since June 8 with a recurring lung infection, is in "critical" condition, the South African President's Office announced on Sunday.

President Jacob Zuma's office said that he had visited Mandela on Sunday evening at the hospital and was informed by doctors that the health condition of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader had become critical in the past 24 hours.

"The doctors are doing everything possible to get (Mandela's) condition to improve and are ensuring that (he) is well-looked after and is comfortable. He is in good hands," Zuma said in the statement.

Earlier this week, Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of the South African hero, said that his grandfather could be released "soon," while Zenani Mandela, the daughter of the global icon, said that her father was recovering from his latest ailment "very well."

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in the prisons of the country's apartheid regime, which imposed the rule of the white minority on the population up until 1994, and it was there that he contracted the pulmonary infection that has recurred periodically and for which he is now being treated.

Since last December, Mandela has been hospitalized on four occasions.

The 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner was elected the next year as South Africa's first black president in the first elections held there in which all South Africans were allowed to vote without regard to race.

His struggle and his efforts for national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to majority rule after four decades of white domination, earned Mandela recognition, as well as deep respect and admiration, around the world. EFE