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Obama Visits Mandela's Family

  • VOA News

Two-year-old Precious Mali holds a picture of former South African President Nelson Mandela as well-wishers gather outside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital where Mandela is being treated in Pretoria June 28, 2013.

Two-year-old Precious Mali holds a picture of former South African President Nelson Mandela as well-wishers gather outside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital where Mandela is being treated in Pretoria June 28, 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama has met privately with family members of South Africa's ailing former president, Nelson Mandela.

Obama visited relatives of the anti-apartheid icon in Johannesburg on Saturday, shortly after Obama met with South African President Jacob Zuma.

Mandela was rushed to a Pretoria hospital on June 8 for a recurring lung infection. The White House says the Obamas will not meet with the 94-year-old former leader during their South Africa trip.

However, during a news conference with Zuma, President Obama extended words of sympathy to andela.

"Our thoughts and those of Americans and people all around the world are with Nelson Mandela, and his family, and all of South Africans," Obama said. "The struggle here against apartheid, for freedom, Madiba's moral courage, this country's historic transition to a free and democratic nation has been a personal inspiration to me, it has been an inspiration to the world and it continues to be. "

Zuma said Saturday that Mandela remains in critical but stable condition. He expressed hope for the former president's recovery.

"The doctors who are attending to him are doing everything, and these are very excellent doctors who are dealing with him," Zuma said. "We place our hopes as well that they will do better. We hope that very soon he will be out of hospital.''

President Zuma also said Obama and Mandela have a shared place in history as the first black presidents of their countries.

"You both carry the dreams of millions of people in Africa and in the diaspora who were previously oppressed," said Zuma

Obama said Mandela recognized that a country's well-being is more important than a single person - a remark likely aimed at Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled his country with an iron fist for more than 30 years.

Mandela served only one term as South Africa's president before stepping down in 1999. He is a national hero in South Africa for his role in ending official racial discrimination and white-minority rule. After spending 27 years in prison, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Obama's three-nation tour of Africa is aimed at promoting trade and investment. He came to South Africa after a stop in Senegal, and also will visit Tanzania before returning home on Tuesday.
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