Nelson Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said today that the former South African leader is showing "great improvement, but clinically he is still unwell."
She spoke with reporters outside Mandela's former home in the Johannesburg township of Soweto.
"I'm not a doctor, but I can say that from what he was a few days ago there is great improvement," she said.
The South African government said Thursday that Mandela’s condition remained critical but stable. One of his daughters also said that he was able to open his eyes and respond to the touch of his family.
Madikizela-Mandela thanked supporters for their well-wishes, but also asked media to be more sensitive in their reporting of the former president's illness.
"We are just here to thank you very much for your support, and we had no idea of the love out there for us in our particular situation," she said. "And if sometimes we sound bitter, it is because we are dealing with a very difficult situation."
The news of Mandela's improvement seemed to lighten the mood outside the Pretoria hospital, where the 94-year-old was admitted earlier this month with a recurring lung infection. Supporters have been standing vigil outside, sometimes singing and dancing in tribute to the anti-apartheid hero.
U.S. President Barack Obama was set to arrive in South Africa on Friday as part of a three-country tour of the African continent. It remains uncertain whether he will have the opportunity to meet with Mandela, whom he calls a personal hero.
"I don't need a photo-op, and the last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned about Nelson Mandela's condition," he told reporters aboard Air Force One.