South Africans gathered in song and prayer late Thursday outside the hospital where Nelson Mandela is being treated, singing "Viva Mandela!" after news the South African anti-apartheid icon's condition had improved.
Colorfully dressed women danced in front of the Pretoria hospital where candles burned and people are often seen praying together, the South African Press Association reported.
Hundreds of people from the African National Congress Youth League and Women's League sang struggle songs, danced, and marched up and down the street in front of the hospital, according to the state-run South African Broadcasting Corp.
"There is no other like him," they sang of Mandela, the SABC reported.
Zuma: Mandela's condition improves
Mandela's condition improved Wednesday night, President Jacob Zuma said Thursday, as the eyes of the nation remained fixed on his progress.
Zuma spoke after visiting Mandela in the hospital and said Mandela's medical team told him the former president "remains critical but is now stable."
"I canceled my visit to Mozambique today so that I can see him and confer with the doctors. He is much better today than he was when I saw him last night," Zuma said.
Mandela, 94, considered the founding father of South Africa's modern democracy, has been undergoing treatment at the Pretoria hospital since June 8 for a recurring lung infection. Mandela's oldest daughter said earlier that although her father is critically ill, he opens his eyes and responds to touch.
"I reiterate that Tata is very critical, that anything is imminent," Makaziwe Mandela told SABC. "But I want to emphasize again that it's only God who knows when the time to go is. And so we will wait."
"Tata" is the word for father in the language of Mandela's Xhosa tribe.
"He's ... still reactive to touch. We will live with that hope until the final end comes," she said.
The stream of family visits continued, with the former president's granddaughter Ndileka Mandela and grandson Mandla Mandela the latest to come to the hospital, the South African Press Association said.
Concerned about rumors
Another grandson, Nkosi Mandela, issued a statement criticizing what he called "hurtful" and "mischievous rumors" about his grandfather's condition.
"Our government has been keeping all of us informed in this regard, and there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the information they provide to the public," he said.
"At the end of the day, my grandfather's fate, like that of everyone else, lies with God and our ancestors," he added. "However, many of us will continue to pray and hope for his recovery."
An official briefed on Mandela's condition said he was on life support late Wednesday. Government spokesman Mac Maharaj declined to comment on the report, citing doctor-patient confidentiality.
Zuma's statement also warned against a rash of misleading reports about Mandela's condition.
"The presidency is disturbed by the rumors that are being spread about former President Mandela's health. We appeal for respect for the privacy and dignity of the former president," it said.
The governing African National Congress also said it was "disturbed by consistent rumors being peddled in the media and elsewhere" about Mandela's health.
The ANC is organizing prayer sessions around the country "where all South Africans can come together, hold hands and pray for Madiba, his family and medical team," it said in a statement Thursday.
In South Africa, Mandela is most commonly referred to as Madiba, the name of the Thembu clan to which he belongs. Referring to him as Madiba is a sign of endearment and respect, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
'We need you!'
As the nation remained on edge, South Africans found solace in candlelight vigils. Police barricaded the street leading to the hospital's main entrance as crowds posted messages and left tributes at the hospital wall.