Civil rights icon Nelson Mandela is recovering after an operation to remove gallstones.

The former South African president was told he would need the surgery after doctors discovered the gallstones when he was hospitalised last week (08Dec12) with a lung infection.

Surgeons waited for the 94 year old to recover from the condition before going ahead with the procedure on Saturday (15Dec12).

In a statement his spokesperson says, "This morning, 15 December, the former president underwent a procedure via endoscopy to have the gallstones removed. The procedure was successful and (Mandela) is recovering."

Mandela suffered a previous health scare earlier this year (12) when he underwent a stomach procedure in February (12), and he was hospitalised in 2011 for an acute respiratory infection.