President Obama was expected to visit the ailing Nelson Mandela during his trip to South Africa, but instead will meet with Madiba’s family, according to the New York Times.
The presidential limousine slipped past a gate at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory Saturday afternoon, leaving the media behind as Mr. Obama met for about 25 minutes with Mr. Mandela‘s relatives before heading to a town-hall-style meeting with students in Soweto. In statement after the meeting, Mr. Obama said he had also spoken by phone with Graça Machel, Mr. Mandela‘s wife, who remained by his bedside.
“I expressed my hope that Madiba draws peace and comfort from the time that he is spending with loved ones,“ Mr. Obama said, referring to Mr. Mandela by his clan name. “I also reaffirmed the profound impact that his legacy has had in building a free South Africa, and in inspiring people around the world — including me. That‘s a legacy that we must all honor in our own lives.“
On Friday, Obama told journalists traveling with him during his African trip that he would allow the Mandela family decide if a visit was appropriate, wrote the Daily News.
“I don‘t need a photo-op, and 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,“ the President told reporters traveling with him from Senegal to Johannesburg.
“Right now, our main concern is with his well-being, his comfort, and with the family’s well-being and comfort.”