Former President Nelson Mandela was discharged from a hospital on Saturday following treatment for pneumonia, the presidency said in news that cheered South Africans who had waited tensely for health updates on a beloved national figure.

Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who spent 27 years in prison for opposing white racist rule, was robust during his decades as a public figure, endowed with charisma, a powerful memory and an extraordinary talent for articulating the aspirations of his people and winning over many of those who opposed him. In recent years, however, Mandela, 94, became more frail.

South Africans hold the former leader dear as a symbol of sacrifice and reconciliation. Primrose Mashoma, a South African, said she wished that Mandela would live, basically, forever. “I wish him to stay maybe a hundred more years,” she said.

During Mandela’s latest hospitalization, doctors drained fluid from his lung area, making it easier for him to breathe. A statement from the office of President Jacob Zuma said there had been “a sustained and gradual improvement” in the condition of Mandela, who was admitted to a hospital on March 27. “The former president will now receive home-based high care.”

associated press