News / Africa

Mandela's Ailing Health Overshadows Obama S. Africa Visit

Well-wishers gather in support of ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela outside his former home in Soweto June 27, 2013.
Well-wishers gather in support of ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela outside his former home in Soweto June 27, 2013.
Anita Powell
South Africa on Friday readied itself for a much-anticipated visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, though the visit has been overshadowed by the declining health of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.  The former president has remained in critical condition for six days at a Pretoria hospital, prompting an outpouring of support.
 
An all-night vigil outside Mandela’s hospital mushroomed Thursday night, as visitors poured in to light candles and pray for the health of the former president.  The concern for Mandela, 94, overshadows another major event in South Africa: the Friday night arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama.
 
For him, too, a bevy of grand events are planned: several bilateral meetings, speeches, a state dinner, and a visit to Robben Island where Mandela spent nearly two decades in prison.  Protesters also plan to greet the U.S. president Saturday morning with their objections to his visit -- one main protest group said it opposes Obama's foreign and military policies.  
 
But many South Africans have expressed support for the American president, saying they see something of their beloved leader in Obama.  Both men were the first black president of their country, and both were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

South African presidency spokesman Mac Maharaj said it is uncertain whether  Obama will visit Mandela -- whom he refers to by his clan name, Madiba.
 
“Essentially, it is a matter that we do not regulate the visits to Madiba.  Those are matters that are handled by the family," Maharaj explained.  "But I did see statements from the United States that they would not be pressing for that, they would be guided by the family and the health interests of Madiba.  So that’s where the matter stands, and it depends, really, on circumstances.” 
 
Maharaj added that the nation was excited about Obama’s visit, as the U.S. is one of South Africa’s top trade partners and a valued ally.
 
  • Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ex-wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, holds a candle during a prayer service for the ailing Mandela at a church in Johannesburg, July 5, 2013. 
  • Ndaba Mandela (R), one of former South African President Nelson Mandela's grandsons, and an unidentified companion leave the Mediclinic Heart Hospital, where the former president is being treated, in Pretoria, July 5, 2013. 
  • Well-wishers pray in support of ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela in front of the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where he is being treated in Pretoria, July 5, 2013.
  • Daughter, Makaziwe Mandela, leaves after visiting the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where former South African President Nelson Mandela is being treated in Pretoria, July 5, 2013. 
  • Well-wishers post messages outside the hospital where ailing former President Nelson Mandela is being treated in Pretoria, July 5, 2013. 
  • A well-wisher weeps as he pays his respects outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital, where ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela is being treated in Pretoria, July 1, 2013.
  • Boys hold a candle as they pay their respects outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital, where ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela is being treated in Pretoria, July 1, 2013.
  • Men stand next to a banner covered with portraits of Nelson Mandela to a wall outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, June 28, 2013.
  • A well-wisher pays respect to ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, June 27, 2013.
  • Granddaughters Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway and Tukwini Mandela are surrounded by the media outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, June 27, 2013.
  • Children release 95 white balloons to mark the upcoming birthday of ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria, June 27, 2013.

But throughout, the fate of the visit has hinged on Mandela's condition.  His daughter told the state broadcaster on Thursday that “anything is imminent” with regard to her father’s health.  He was admitted to the Pretoria hospital on June 8 for a lung infection.  On Sunday, he fell into critical condition, where he remains.
 
The ruling African National Congress said they would start holding daily prayer sessions for Mandela.  Spokesman Keith Khoza said the party urged people to pray for his full recovery.
 
The ANC’s mark was also all over the visitors at Thursday’s hospital vigil.  Many wore ANC shirts.  The ANC faces national elections next year.
 
Maharaj, who is also an ANC member, said the confluence of party and personality is not unusual or wrong -- after all, he said, Mandela was the party’s first leader to serve as South African president, and Mandela has reiterated his undying loyalty to the party.
 
Mmusi Maimane, a spokesman for the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said they would not make Mandela’s ailing health into a political issue.
 
“We like, any other South African, are concerned first and foremost about Nelson Mandela’s health," Maimane said.  "And that is our focus … our thoughts are with his family.  And at best, that is what we are focusing on and on nothing else.”
 
And so, ultimately, is the world.  Well-wishers have sent letters and tweets from around the world, the piles of flowers are growing, and the world waits, again, for news on Mandela.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sue Glee from: KY US
June 28, 2013 9:32 AM
Nelson Mandela/Madiba will always be remembered as a great man. As his beloved people pray for his full recovery, may they also know that when it is God's will, Madiba will be eternally present with the saints in Heaven and known for his loving spirit. May we all learn how to love one another and learn through his example as Jesus, our Savior teaches all of us. Thank you, Madiba for all you have done through peaceful resolution. God blesses us with your presence forevermore.


by: Brian from: canada
June 28, 2013 9:26 AM
what Obama has to offer ,South Africa does not need nor want.

In Response

by: Motshubi from: Johannesburg, South Afric
July 01, 2013 2:45 AM
How do you know, what SA wants or need? Are you holding any mandate for SA?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid