With Nelson Mandela, seriously ill in hospital, President Obama was unable to meet him and pay his respects to the man he describes as “an inspiration to the world and a personal hero”.
Mandela who is 94 years old this year remains in a critical condition in hospital was praised for his moral courage by the president who encouraged other African and world leaders to follow his example, during a meeting with his family in Johannesburg yesterday.
Mr Obama visited the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory which is part of the former South African president’s foundation. Mr Mandela’s recent health since the beginning has meant spells in hospital for a considerable period this year and many people in South Africa are preparing themselves in their hearts for the passing of one of the worlds most extraordinary and influential of world leaders and statesman,.
The current president of South Africa Jacob Zuma recently described Mr Mandela’s health to be “critical but stable”, adding: “We hope that very soon he will be out of hospital”.
The prospect of a meeting between the first black presidents of the US and South Africa has unfortunately not been achievable after Mr Mandela was taken to hospital with a recurring lung infection three weeks ago. But on Friday Obama indicated it had not been ruled out. It would have been a momentous occasion for both countries if this had been able to take place this weekend and would also be a important landmark in political history. Mr Obama said “I’ve had the opportunity to meet with him. Michelle and the girls had an opportunity to meet with him. Right now, our main concern is with his wellbeing, his comfort, and with the family’s wellbeing and comfort.”