Barack Obama will meet South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma in Pretoria today, but the US president insists he will not push for a visit with Nelson Mandela.
Mr Obama is in South Africa with his family as part of his three-nation Africa tour. He arrived in Pretoria aboard Air Force One late on Friday evening.
Mr Obama told reporters in Dakar, Senegal, before he departed for South Africa that he “did not need a photo op” with the anti-apartheid icon, who remains in hospital.
“I think the main message we’ll want to deliver, if not directly to him, but to his family, is simply profound gratitude for his leadership,” Mr Obama said.
It comes after Mr Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said the former South African president’s condition has shown “great improvement” over recent days.
Speaking outside the Pretoria hospital on Friday where the 94-year-old is being treated for a recurring lung infection, she said he remained “unwell”.
She said: “It becomes very difficult to understand the seeming impatience and statements like: ‘It is time for the family to let go’.
“And statements like: ‘We are praying for the family not to pull the tubes’.
“Those are insensitive statements that none of you would want made about your parents and grandparents.”
Mr Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, was taken to hospital three weeks ago with recurrent lung problems.
He turns 95 next month.
On the eve of Mr Obama’s visit, Mr Mandela was said to be in a critical condition, but had stabilised since a scare forced Mr Zuma to cancel a trip to neighbouring Mozambique.
Yet South Africans, including Mr Mandela’s family, remain braced for the worst.
“I won’t lie. It doesn’t look good,” daughter Makaziwe Mandela said. She added that “if we speak to him he responds and tries to open his eyes – he’s still there”.
“Anything is imminent, but I want to emphasise again that it is only God who knows when the time to go is,” she told local radio.
Mr Obama has led a chorus of support for the man he has dubbed a “hero for the world”.
“The President will be speaking to the legacy of Nelson Mandela and that will be a significant part of our time in South Africa,” said deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes.
“The President will treasure any opportunity he has to celebrate that legacy.”
Mr Obama is expected to visit Robben Island during his South Africa tour, where Mr Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.
The president’s Africa tour is scheduled to end in Tanzania.
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Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/1109472