Barack Obama to visit Mandela family in South Africa tour
- 29 June 2013
- From the section Africa
US President Barack Obama is to meet members of Nelson Mandela's family during his visit to South Africa, the White House says.
But officials confirmed that the president will not see the ailing leader himself, who is in a critical condition in hospital.
Mr Obama is in Pretoria as part of his three-country tour of Africa and held talks with President Jacob Zuma.
They discussed economic co-operation as well as conflicts in the region.
Mr Mandela, who is 94, is critically ill in hospital, where he was admitted on 8 June with a recurring lung infection.
His ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, said on Friday she felt it would not be right for President Obama to visit him while he was in a critical condition.
"I'm not a doctor but I can say that from what he was a few days ago there is great improvement, but clinically he is still unwell," she said.
'Legacy will linger'
Mr Obama, who is travelling with his family, arrived in South Africa from Senegal on Friday evening.
In a joint news briefing on Saturday morning, President Zuma thanked the US for its historic anti-apartheid movement, and Mr Obama for his role in it.
He said Mr Obama and Mr Mandela were "bound by history as the first black presidents of your respective countries, thus you both carry the dreams of millions of people in Africa and in the diaspora who were previously oppressed".
Mr Zuma said Africa was rising, and that Mr Obama's visit was "well timed to take advantage of this growing market", calling for greater US investment in South Africa.
Mr Obama said the "moral courage" of Mr Mandela was an inspiration to many regions of the world which are divided by conflict.
During his weekend trip, the US president will visit Robben Island, where Mr Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.
He is also expected to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu and give a major speech at the University of Cape Town. The address is due to take place on Sunday night.
On Friday, Mr Obama had said it was unlikely he would see Mr Mandela, saying he did not "need a photo op" with him.
Speaking on board Air Force One after leaving Senegal, he told reporters: "The last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned with Nelson Mandela's condition."
"I think the main message we'll want to deliver is not directly to him, but to his family - is simply profound gratitude for his leadership all these years, and that the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with him, his family and his country."
The White House later confirmed that he and First Lady Michelle Obama will later "meet privately with members of the Mandela family to offer their thoughts and prayers at this difficult time".
"Out of deference to Nelson Mandela's peace and comfort and the family's wishes, they will not be visiting the hospital," said the statement.
Mr Obama met Mr Mandela in 2005 when he was still a US senator. Both men became the first black presidents of their nations and have received the Nobel Peace Prize.
His wife and daughters had a private meeting with Mr Mandela in 2011.
The US president has described Mr Mandela as a "hero for the world", whose "legacy will linger on through the ages", and who had inspired his own activism as a student.
Mr Obama will finish his Africa tour in Tanzania. It is his first prolonged trip to the continent since he became president in 2009.