Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela in 2000. Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science

South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has been discharged from hospital after an 18-day stay and moved to his home in Johannesburg, according to the government.

Mandela, 94, and in frail health, was treated for a lung infection and also underwent surgery to remove gallstones. The former president has long suffered from lung ailments, having contracted tuberculosis while imprisoned for 27 years before his release in 1990.

Mandela stepped down as president in 1999 after one term.

"He will undergo home-based high care at his ... home until he recovers fully," President Jacob Zuma’s office said in a statement.

"We request a continuation of the privacy consideration in order to allow for the best possible conditions for full recovery.”

Zuma visited Mandela on Christmas Day and commented that the patient looked well and appeared to be alert and in good spirits.

Mandela has lived largely in seclusion that past decade, avoiding public appearances, although he has received some prominent foreign visitors, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

"I saw in him something that I try not to lose in myself, which is no matter how much responsibility you have, he remembered you were a person first," Clinton told CNN.

Mandela, who remains extremely popular in South Africa, last appeared in public in 2010, when the nation hosted the World Cup.