Nelson Mandela in critical condition

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mandelaPRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) — The condition of South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has improved overnight, President Jacob Zuma said Thursday, as the eyes of the nation remain fixed on his progress.

Zuma, whose statement came after he visited Mandela in a hospital in Pretoria, said Mandela’s medical team told him the former president “remains critical but is now stable.”

“I canceled my visit to Mozambique today so that I can see him and confer with the doctors. He is much better today than he was when I saw him last night,” Zuma said.

Earlier, Mandela’s oldest daughter said that although her father is critically ill, he opens his eyes and responds to touch.

Mandela, 94, considered the founding father of South Africa’s modern democracy, has been undergoing treatment at the Pretoria hospital since June 8 for a recurring lung infection.

“I reiterate that Tata is very critical, that anything is imminent,” Makaziwe Mandela told state-run South African Broadcasting Corp. “But I want to emphasize again that it’s only God who knows when the time to go is. And so we will wait.”

Tata is the Xhosa word for father.

“He’s … still reactive to touch. We will live with that hope until the final end comes,” she said.

Zuma’s statement also warned against the rash of misleading reports about Mandela’s condition.

“The presidency is disturbed by the rumors that are being spread about former President Mandela’s health. We appeal for respect for the privacy and dignity of the former president,” it said.

An official briefed on Mandela’s condition said he was on life support late Wednesday. Government spokesman Mac Maharaj declined to comment on the report, citing doctor-patient confidentiality.