Former head of state Nelson Mandela on Wednesday responded positively to treatment for a lung infection, the first sign of progress since he was admitted to the hospital in serious condition five days ago, the South African government said.

"We are very happy with the progress that he is now making," President Jacob Zuma said in a speech to parliament.

The good news was made public after Zuma on Tuesday had called Mandela's condition very serious.

Mandela, 94, has gone into the hospital four times since last December, each time for a recurrence of the respiratory infection.

The anti-apartheid leader who became South Africa's first black president began having lung problems during the 27 years he spent in the prisons of the white-minority regime.

Mandela on Wednesday once again was visited by his three adult daughters and his ex-wife and comrade-in-arms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Mandela's current wife, Graça Machel, has scarcely been away from his side since he entered Pretoria's Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital.

Another relative who came on Wednesday to see Mandela, revered as the father of the nation, was his grandson Mandla Mandela, who also passed by his grandfather's house in Johannesburg and spoke with reporters stationed there.

"We are particularly honored to have received the many prayers and messages from South Africans at large as well as the global community," Mandla Mandela said. EFE