South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Friday that hospitalized former president Nelson Mandela's health was improving and that there was no need to panic over his health, rubbishing speculation that the legendary leader was nearing his end.

Meanwhile, ABC News quoted an unnamed source as saying that the anti-apartheid icon was recovering from a collapsed lung and could leave hospital as early as tonight.

Medically there is no need to panic. Dr Mandela suffers from ailment common to people of his age, and conditions that have developed over years. We may recall that he has suffered from tuberculosis whilst at Pollsmoor and has had previous respiratory infections, Motlanthe said in a statement posted on Mandela's foundation.

I want to assure the nation and the world that the former President is in high spirits, and has been visited by his family and friends.

His foundation has not given any further updates on the health of the first black president of South Africa. The foundation admonished the media on Thursday for sensationalizing the health issue of the former president.

The media should balance the quest for stories with acting within the bounds of human decency and ensuring the respect for human dignity. The doctors also need to be allowed to do their work without undue pressure.

Rumors of Mandela's failing health were rife on the Internet, with some reports even claiming he had passed away.

Despite official assurances, there is still concern over the exact nature of the health of the 92-year-old leader who has not been seen in public ever since the football World Cup hosted by South Africa in July last year.