Nelson Mandela's former wife urged the media to exercise prudence in its coverage of the hospitalization of the former South African president, who has been in critical condition for a week.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who spoke publicly to the media Friday night for the first time since Mandela was hospitalized on June 8 with a recurring lung infection, called on reporters not to speak about her ex-husband in the past tense, local online newspaper EyeWitnessNews reported.

"It is those sorts of things that make it difficult for some of my children and some of my grandchildren," she said at the entrance to the Mandela family museum in Soweto, a property that was the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero's first-ever home in Johannesburg,

Winnie, who was married to Mandela for 38 years, said the media had gotten carried away with its coverage of the former leader's hospitalization but that the family was grateful to journalists for keeping the country and the world informed about his health.

Her remarks came a day after Mandela's oldest daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, in an interview with South African state television, slammed the international media as "vultures."

South Africa President Jacob Zuma said Thursday that Mandela was in "critical but stable" condition in a Pretoria hospital.

Nelson Mandela's lung problems are a legacy of the tuberculosis he contracted during the 27 years he spent behind bars for his opposition to the apartheid regime of racial segregation.

After his release in 1990, Mandela and the last president of apartheid-era South Africa, F.W. de Klerk, led the process of peacefully dismantling that system.

They jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their collaboration in that effort.

Elected president in 1994, Mandela's leadership was credited with helping to avert widespread racial violence in post-apartheid South Africa. EFE