The revered 94-year-old had been admitted to a Pretoria hospital on December 8, undergoing treatment for a lung infection and gallstones in the latest health scare for South Africa’s first black president.
Although he was discharged on Wednesday, doctors for now want him to stay in Johannesburg, near the country’s top medical facilities, said a presidential spokesman.
Mandela was said to be receiving “home-based care” at his residence in the posh Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, where international media gathered to get a hint of the former statesman’s condition.
“Doctors yesterday came to the conclusion that he made sufficient progress to be discharged,” presidential spokesman and former Mandela prison mate Mac Maharaj told local television channel eNCA.
“When Madiba goes, in which period, is a matter that is entirely depending on his own wishes. Whatever he wishes we will do,” said Maharaj, referring to Mandela’s clan name.
“But right now the doctors have considered it necessary and good that he should be in Houghton so that he’s close to all the facilities where they can give him high care.”
It was unclear if and when Mandela would return to his ancestral home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, where he currently lives.
His release from hospital spells relief for many South Africans, who had feared for the nonagenarian’s health.
“Yes he is old, but nobody really wants to lose him,” said Cianda, a Johannesburg resident.
“For me it is quite a relief because I’m happy that he’s back home, and he’s going to be home to see the New Year. Not in hospital.”
The Nobel Peace laureate was visited on Christmas Day by his wife Graca Machel and other family members along with President Jacob Zuma, who said Mandela was “looking much better”.
Although Mandela has been out of politics for more than a decade, he still looms large in country still coming to terms with its apartheid past.
Mandela became an international hero after spending 27 years behind bars for his belief in democracy.
He garner further admiration through his willingness to extend the hand of peace to his white captors and is widely credited with stopping a bloodbath when minority rule was overthrown and the first multi-party elections were held in 1994.
Messages of support and prayers for the recovery of the country’s most respected citizen have been pouring in.
“Everyone has been a little bit worried about him, but quite relieved that he’s back home,” said Brian De Luca, also of Johannesburg.
“It’s good that he’s still healthy and he’s back at home.”
Mandela had spent Christmas in the Pretoria facility, part of his longest hospital stay since coming out of prison in 1990.
It is just the latest in a series of health scares for Mandela.
Once a spry boxer who stayed fit during his long years behind bars by doing calisthenics in his cell, he has grown increasingly frail in recent years and he exited public life in 2004.
In February when he spent the night in hospital after receiving a minor exploratory procedure to investigate persistent abdominal pain.
In January 2011, Mandela set the nation on edge when he was hospitalised for two nights with an unnamed acute respiratory infection, which the government initially described as “routine” testing.
While serving his 27-year prison term, Mandela was diagnosed with early stage tuberculosis in 1988, a disease which killed his father.
In 2001, he received radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer and told reporters the following year that he had been given a clean bill of health against the disease.