Nightly News   |  March 28, 2013

Mandela rushed to hospital

South Africa’s president asked the world to pray for his predecessor, Nelson Mandela, and to keep him in their thoughts. NBC’s Rohit Kachroo reports.

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>> overseas was ominous. it was scary. it got our attention. nelson mandela hospitalized again. the current south african leader referring to mandela by his nickname said, quote, we appeal to the people of south africa and the world to pray for our beloved madiba . later came updates it was a lung infection that has him down this time and the 94-year-old is said to be responding favorably to treatment. nbc's rohit kachroo is in johannesberg for us.

>> ever since nelson mandela contracted tuberculosis during his years in prison he's been susceptible to lung infections. when an infection was detected last night, doctors took no chances.

>> nelson mandela is said to be responding to treatment.

>> nelson mandela 's health.

>> pray for mandela .

>> reporter: the news quickly spread around the world. nelson mandela rushed to the hospital just before midnight . the third hospitalization in four months. this time officials weren't calling it scheduled or routine.

>> former president nelson mandela is responding positively to the treatment he's receiving for a recurring lung infection.

>> reporter: photographed with his great grandson last month, mandela looked healthy. he's 94 now, increasingly frail and rarely seen in public. south africa 's current president jacob zuma spoke about the man known as madiba saying 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. tonight, many did pray. seen here some of the bloodiest moments in the struggle against white minority rule . the system of apartheid mandela spent 27 years in prison for resisting before he prevailed.

>> asking god to let him live longer.

>> i wish him a speedy recovery. we love him so much.

>> reporter: president obama meeting with african leaders at the white house today expressed concern for mandela 's health.

>> he's a hero, i think, to all of us. i'm sure i speak for the other leaders here. we will be keeping him in our thoughts and prayers and his entire family.

>> reporter: south africa is a young country and most people here have no memory of mandela 's years in captivity. the so-called born free generation. he remains an iconic, towering figure. it's 24 hours now since mandela was rushed to the hospital. officials are saying he's responding positively to treatment. his progress is being watched closely in south africa where his health is a matter of national concern. brian?

>> rohit kachroo, our correspondent in johannesberg tonight. thanks.