Nelson Mandela was readmitted to the hospital just before midnight local time due to a recurring lung infection. The former South African President spent over two weeks in the hospital this past December, undergoing treatment for a lung infection and gallstones.

A spokesperson for Mandela said:

"[The doctors] prefer to act on the side of caution, and the moment they felt there was a recurrence of the lung infection, they felt that it warranted immediate hospitalisation given his age and given his history."

Despite the reassuring statement, the late hour of the hospital visit has caused concern. The current President Jacob Zuma called for prayers:

"We appeal to the people of South Africa and the world to pray for our beloved Madiba and his family and to keep them in their thoughts. We have full confidence in the medical team and know that they will do everything possible to ensure recover."

The 94-year-old served as South Africa's first black president from 1994 to 1999, after braving nearly thirty years in prison for his activism. He earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership, and has spent the years since leaving office as a global statesman.

[BBC, image via AP]