Obama heads to SA as Mandela still critical

2013-06-28 06:44

Pretoria - US President Barack Obama flies to South Africa on Friday hoping to pay homage to the legacy of his critically ill hero Nelson Mandela, who is critically ill in hospital.

Mandela's ill health means the two men, who shattered racial boundaries on either side of the Atlantic, are not expected to have a long-anticipated meeting for the cameras.

Still, reflections on Mandela's extraordinary journey from prisoner to president are likely to permeate Obama's three-day stay.

Critical condition

Mandela, who turns 95 next month, was rushed to hospital three weeks ago with a recurrent lung disease and has since appeared close to death.

On the eve of the visit, Mandela was said to be in a critical condition, but had stabilised since a scare forced President Jacob Zuma to cancel a trip to neighbouring Mozambique.

"He is much better today," said Zuma after seeing Mandela on Thursday for the second time in less than 24 hours.

Yet South Africans, including Mandela's family, remain braced for the worst.

"I won't lie. It doesn't look good," daughter Makaziwe Mandela said. But "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 said.

Mandela's plight has lent a deeply poignant tone to the visit, around which Obama has built a three-nation Africa tour, and his plans could yet be upended by sudden developments in the ex-president's condition.


"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."

The White House says it is in the hands of the Mandela family and the South African authorities on any aspect of the visit.

"We will obviously be very deferential to the developments that take place and the wishes of the family and the South African government," Rhodes said.

A visit by Obama to Mandela's former jail cell on Robben Island, off Cape Town on Sunday would now take on extra "profundity", he added.

'Hero of the world'

Speaking in Senegal on the first leg of his long-awaited African trip, Obama described Mandela as "a personal hero."

"I think he is a hero for the world, and if and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages."

The US president recalled how Mandela had inspired him to take up political activity, when he campaigned for the anti-apartheid movement as a student in the late 1970s.

South Africans have also been marking the life of a man who led their country out of apartheid.

Outside Mandela's hospital a wall of messages and flowers has become the focal point for a nation saying a long goodbye to one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.

"There is no sadness here. There is celebration. He is a giant," said Nomhlahla Donry, 57, whose husband served time with the revered leader.

Mandela has been hospitalised four times since December, mostly for a stubborn lung infection.

  • Alpheus Nethononda - 2013-06-28 06:55

    Business as usual and has to go on, for those who forgot, Mandela in his heydays was a hard worker.

  • Teboho Mokotjomela - 2013-06-28 07:04

    Mandelas daughter says it doesnt look good(he s not better ) BUT Zuma says he s better.WHO is telling the truth?

      Gerhard Uys - 2013-06-28 07:12

      With all respect, I'd rather believe Mandela's daughter.

      Keg - 2013-06-28 07:49

      Zuma has never told the truth so definately Mandela's daughter

      Joe-Public - 2013-06-28 08:04

      @Keg 'Zuma has never told the truth.' As one commentator said,he has told the truth... Nkandla report will be kept top secret as long as he is the head honcho. Is that not truth?It's my money and yours, which he thinks is his.

      LAVOLPE-ZN - 2013-06-28 08:47

      I'm telling you the man is clinically dead. Political tension with Obama's visit is perhaps causing government to delay the announcement. But just to clarify. You don't improve or worsen when your clinically dead. You're simply dead

      Arthur Adams - 2013-06-28 11:10

      For once don’t let your hatred for the President cloud your judgement. People, love ones interpretation of the situation may differ. According to the doctors his condition may have improved, but for family members we may see it differently. It is possible that his condition will fluctuate .People whose love ones died in hospital while in critical condition will understand. One minute the person seems like they will make, LOOKS BETTER, and the next minute you get the call that he has died.

  • Peter Zylstra - 2013-06-28 07:11

    Once Obama has been for a visit the life supporting machines will be plugged out. Go in peace Nelson!

  • Carmen Gabriels - 2013-06-28 07:20

    How ironic that according to JZ Madiba is suddenly better as Obama touches down......

  • Chreamz George - 2013-06-28 07:32

    Obama heads to South Africa to announce the long awaited bad news.

      Elimu - 2013-06-28 08:12

      That's a very America-centric view don't you think?

  • Andile Mokoena - 2013-06-28 07:33

    Tata Mandela he is and will always be our hero, may the good lord be with him and his family!

      Kgomotso Zwane - 2013-06-28 09:48

      That's true Andile let the God Lord be with him,TATA in everything that you have done in this country of SOUTH AFRICA SITHI ENKOSI SIYABONGA, We are really proud of you.

  • George Webb - 2013-06-28 07:34

    Who cares about visits from Obama and all the other people around the globe. Madiba is ours and the world's hero and although it is very sad what is happening right now he remains a legend with a legacy that he will leave behind which I think no other man will achieve. I do however pray that his eternity is confirmed. I have read comments about ancestors and all the other religions. I have even seen about the fact that people says that Obama is coming to take his soul because Obama is the leader of the underworld and the next antichrist. What a load of hogwash. The fact is JESUS is KING and He holds the key to anybody's eternity including Madiba's. They can believe what they want to but only Jesus can save no man , ancestor , mohammed , etc. Jesus is King and He is alive.

      Ricky Correia - 2013-06-28 08:13

      And what makes you right George ? You are actually insulting other religions as BILLIONS of people around the world would totally disagree with you.

  • David M Jane - 2013-06-28 07:40

    We all wish Madiba the best of his life

  • Busulelwa Mthombeni - 2013-06-28 07:43

    Long Live Madiba!!!

  • Tumelo Maripane - 2013-06-28 07:46

    the devil himself is coming to our shores to fetch this soul,Mandela will pass on during or after Obama leaves. We all know that Mandela is part of the occult

      Apostle Holystorm Ledwaba - 2013-06-28 14:14

      mandela is one of the illuminatis occults,we dont have to be surprised by obama's they no what they are doing

  • John Edgar - 2013-06-28 07:48

    One thing for sure we all knew that the unfortunate day will come for an old man selfless hero of the heroes.We must accept that the day has come and move on with our lives.Even the doctors with their ventilation machines they cannot defeat the powers and wishes of God.Only god knows when is Mandela day not artifial one 18 July.Let the will of almighty power happen.

  • Mpho Tennyson Cindi - 2013-06-28 07:53

    In all Honesty, We Love Madiba and Adore him.....But the Will of The Lord is all that Matters now.....Amen.....Intando Yakho mayenziwe, Emhlabeni njengoba yenziwa Ezulwini..Its in Gods hands now.

  • Jo Davies - 2013-06-28 08:11

    I really don't think that Obama "shattered" racial boundaries on America. The movement for African Americans began in 1800's and the first black voted into confess was in the 60's.

      Simphiwe Charlie - 2013-06-28 09:26

      Obama has changed nothing, here or in the US, he's just a puppet for the rich jews that control him and his country.

  • Hanneli Erasmus - 2013-06-28 08:12

    Just let Obama come and go, he's not achieved much thus far. The United States are still run the same old way by making profits out of poverty stricken countries, they do seem to have one thing in common with South Africa - exploiting the poor

  • Friederike Koep - 2013-06-28 08:19

    As good as it is for president Obama to come to Africa, I almost feel like saying that this is not a good time for him to be here. We are dealing with big things at home right now and having Mr Obama here adds another layer to the already very sensitive and carefully planned communications and considerations. South Africa and the world is praying and mourning, it doesn't feel right to feel so torn between watching president Obama's visit and scanning the news channels every few minutes with a knot in our stomachs about our beloved Mr Mandela's state of health. Our Madiba is and always will be the most important person in South Africa and also one of the most important and amazing people in the world. At home in South Africa we don't need the distraction of an important stateman's visit right now. No disrespect to president Obama, but your presence here right now means that we (South African children - Mandela's children) will receive news of our angel on earth through yet another filter. Sending Nelson Mandela love, strength and peace.

  • Wandile Tembe - 2013-06-28 08:38

    Wish that Obama doesn't make it here. Wish something could happen on his way.

  • Christina Setloboko - 2013-06-28 08:43

    you are welcomed Mr. Obama in Mzantsi.

  • Mishack Mkansi - 2013-06-28 08:45

    What does he want

      Kortbroek Du Plessis - 2013-06-28 09:02

      Not shure but I know what Zuma wants... $$$$$$$

  • Bongo Bongo - 2013-06-28 09:42

    The plan is coming together. Mandela is "alive" when Obama arrives, and the Mandela clan will probably have a few extra million to fight about once he is declared dead. Win for ANC and win for Mandela clan. Vultures.

  • Geno Bestenbier - 2013-06-28 10:00

    Why have we become so unfriendly to visitors? What happened to us being neighbourly? Mr Mandela would have welcomed the American president with open arms. Looks like the old mans values have become lost, not only by his family and party, but also by the nation at large. Sad.

  • Banele Jay Jay - 2013-06-28 10:29

    So What is it about Mandela that South Africans don't know that Obama is gonna tell South Africans? He's smoking his socks. "I won't lie. It doesn't look good," daughter Makaziwe Mandela said. But "if we speak to him he responds and tries to open his eyes - he's still there". Then Zuma comes to lie and tells the country that Mandela is doing better.

  • Mlungisi Aaron - 2013-06-28 10:34

    I like it when the US president says that "the Madiba magic will continue to echoe throughtout the ages". I love Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela most of the things I have created he has been a "part of it" I love him always.

  • Mbali Mamba - 2013-06-28 10:46

    ...And the world ended after Obama landed in South Africa..., I dont understand why some people talk about Obama as if he is some god, confused much.

  • Mlungisi Aaron - 2013-06-28 10:59

    I like it when the US president says that "the Madiba magic will continue to echoe throughtout the ages". I love Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela most of the things I have created he has been a "part of it" I love him always.

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