By Agnieszka Flak
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Nelson Mandela, the 94-year-old former South African president and Nobel Peace laureate hospitalized with a lung infection, has successfully undergone a procedure to have gallstones removed, the government said on Saturday.
"The former president underwent a procedure via endoscopy to have gallstones removed. The procedure was successful and Madiba is recovering," President Jacob Zuma's office said in a statement, using Mandela's clan name.
South Africa's first black president, who came to power in historic all-race elections in 1994 after decades struggling against apartheid, remains a symbol of resistance to racism and injustice at home and around the world.
Mandela was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on Saturday a week ago after being flown from his home village of Qunu in a remote, rural part of the Eastern Cape province.
Tests revealed a recurrence of a lung infection and that he had developed gallstones, the government statement said.
The medical team had decided to treat the lung infection before attending to the gallstones, it said.
Mandela spent 27 years in apartheid prisons, including 18 years on the windswept Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town.
He was released in 1990 and went on to use his unparalleled prestige to push for reconciliation between whites and blacks as the bedrock of the post-apartheid "Rainbow Nation".
He stepped down in 1999 after one term in office and has been largely removed from public life for the last decade.
Mandela spent time in a Johannesburg hospital in 2011 with a respiratory condition, and again in February this year because of abdominal pains. He was released the following day after a keyhole examination showed there was nothing serious.
He has since spent most of his time in Qunu.
His fragile health prevents him from making any public appearances in South Africa, although he has continued to receive high-profile domestic and international visitors, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton in July.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Sonya Hepinstall)