News / Africa

Obama Plays Down Expectations of Mandela Visit

This two-picture combination of file photos shows Nelson Mandela on Aug. 8, 2012 (l) and President Barack Obama on May 31, 2013.
This two-picture combination of file photos shows Nelson Mandela on Aug. 8, 2012 (l) and President Barack Obama on May 31, 2013.
Anita Powell
U.S. President Barack Obama says he is uncertain whether he’ll meet ailing South African icon Nelson Mandela after he arrives in the country for a much-anticipated visit Friday.

Speaking to reporters aboard the presidential plane Air Force One on Friday,Obama played down expectations of a visit with the 94-year-old Mandela.  

"I don't need a photo op," said the president.  "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."

Mandela has spent several days in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital, prompting an outpouring of support - and overshadowing Obama’s visit.  He is doing better but remains critical, said his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, on Friday.

The presidency and the family have been publicly reluctant to give any specific details about his medical status.  Mandela has been in critical condition since Sunday.

“I am not here to answer any medical questions. I am not a doctor, but I can say from what he was a few days ago there is great improvement, but clinically he is still unwell," said Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Khusela Sangoni-Khawe, a spokeswoman for South Africa’s ruling party, said top party officials visited the hospital on Friday and found the same, though they only spoke to the family and doctors, as the doctors advised that Mandela’s condition was too dire for them to be able to see him in person.

Like many South Africans, she referred to the 94-year-old icon by his clan name, Madiba.

“And we received reports that indeed Comrade Mandela remains in a critical but stable condition.  We are calling on all South Africans to continue to pray for Madiba during this time. The ANC is filling out prayer meetings throughout the country, where we are going to be keeping President Mandela, his family and medical team in our thoughts," said Sangoni-Khawe.

Mandela’s health is overshadowing the visit of another Nobel Peace Laureate who was also elected his nation’s first black president: U.S. President Barack Obama.

A bevy of events are planned: several bilateral meetings, speeches, a state dinner, and a visit to Robben Island where Mandela spent decades in prison.  There are also protests against the visit - nearly 1,000 trade unionists, Muslim activists and members of South Africa's Communist party marched to the U.S. embassy in Pretoria Friday, where they denounced U.S. foreign policy.

But missing from Obama’s official agenda is a visit to Mandela himself.

The two men met in person once, in the United States, when Obama was a U.S. Senator. Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said any visit this weekend would be decided by Mandela’s family.

“Essentially, it is a matter that we do not regulate the visits to Madiba. Those are matters that are handled by the family. 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," said Maharaj.

Mandela’s 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.

  • U.S. President Barack Obama heads a soccer ball at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013. The ball called a "soccket ball" has internal electronics that allows it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.
  • U.S. First lady Michelle Obama walks with Salma Kikwete, wife of Tanzania's president, during a departure ceremony in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and former president George W. Bush (left) attend a memorial for the victims of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, and Tanzanian first lady Salma Kikwete wave as they arrive at State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013.
  • President Barack Obama and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete walk in front of Michelle Obama and Salma Kikwete as they arrive at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013.
  • Young girls and women wear the khanga, a traditional wrap, with the image of U.S. President Barack Obama as they line up to greet him at the State House, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama writes in a guest book as he tours Robben Island with first lady Michelle Obama, near Cape Town, June 30, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama departs the Robben Island prison cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment near Cape Town, June 30, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama listens to Desmond Tutu as he visits his HIV Foundation Youth Center and takes part in a health event in Cape Town, June 30, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama greets participants at a town hall-style meeting with young African leaders at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto, June 29, 2013.
  • Members of the White House traveling staff walk to a group of helicopters about to transport U.S. President Barack Obama from a soccer field in Johannesburg, June 29, 2013.
  • Protesters argue with police outside the University of Johannesburg in Soweto, ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, June 29, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama look out of a doorway that slaves departed from on Goree Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama visits a food security expo in Dakar, Senegal, June 28, 2013.
  • People line the motorcade route of U.S. President Barack Obama on his way to meet with Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar, June 27, 2013.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Shadow from: USA
June 28, 2013 1:26 PM
After all 13 years of breaking down freedom....One of the world's most cherished international civil rights supporters....All I can see is Obama trying to avoid this man in such shame and dishonor he would dig a hole next to the first dog house.

by: Gary from: Washington State
June 28, 2013 12:59 PM
The Mandela family needs to be left to the peace and quiet time they have left. Mr. Mandela has given enough to the world. The President needs not to make this an 'event' showing how humble he (Obama) can be....

by: john s. from: usa
June 28, 2013 11:23 AM
What was the point of this trip? Obviously a vacation for the family at taxpayers expense. Obama and his entourage in another luxury package...... Meanwhile the country is enmeshed in scandals and we are a flop when it comes to international diplomacy. So much for the new era of diplomacy.....

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More