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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid