Ailing civil rights icon Nelson Mandela was forced to wait by the side of the road for almost an hour when the ambulance taking him to hospital two weeks ago broke down, it has emerged.

The 94 year old was being taken from Johannesburg to a medical centre in Pretoria, South Africa on 8 June (13) when the emergency vehicle suffered engine trouble.

The former South African president and his convoy waited for more than 40 minutes for a private ambulance to arrive.

Presidential spokesperson MAC Maharaj confirms Mandela was surrounded by medical staff throughout the ordeal, and insists his condition was not made worse by the delay.

Mandela, who has been in and out of hospital in recent months, has been receiving treatment in Pretoria for ongoing lung problems.