Johannesburg: Former South African president Nelson Mandela, who is critically ill with a lung infection, is "at peace" and his family is praying for a "smooth transition", the daughter of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader has said.

"All I pray for as a daughter is that the transition is smooth. He is at peace with himself. He has given so much to the world. I believe he is at peace," Makaziwe, the sole surviving child from his first marriage to Evelyn, said.

Asked whether the family should let the former statesman go, Makaziwe said they would not because Mandela had not asked them to. "In our culture, the Tembu culture ... you never release the person unless the person has told you: 'Please, my children, my family, release me.' My dad hasn't said that to us," she said.

Mandela, South Africa's first black president, was admitted to hospital in Pretoria on June 8 for the third time this year, with a recurring lung infection. On Sunday night, doctors treating Mandela told President Jacob Zuma and ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa that his condition had become "critical".

"Former President Mandela remains in a critical condition in hospital. The doctors are doing everything possible to ensure his well being and comfort," Zuma had said on Sunday.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner is believed to have suffered damage to his lungs while working in a prison quarry. He contracted tuberculosis in the 1980s while being held in jail on the windswept Robben Island. Mandela retired from public life in 2004 and has rarely been seen at official events since.

(Agencies)

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