President Obama carved out some time on his busy tour of Africa to meet with members of Nelson Mandela's family as the the 94-year-old former president of South Africa and civil rights leader is fighting for his life. Mandela is still in critical condition and seeking treatment at a hospital in Pretoria. Things are tense in South Africa as South African President Jacob Zuma and Mandela's own daughter have made it clear these may be Madiba's last days. (Mandela is fondly known as Madiba by South Africans and his supporters.)
Obama had a very private meeting with Mandela's two daughters and eight grandchildren at the Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg, which is part of Mandela's foundation. The President also spoke with Graça Machel, Mandela's wife, by phone. "I expressed my hope that Madiba draws peace and comfort from the time that he is spending with loved ones," the President said afterwards. Machel is by her husband's side at the hospital.
Machel thanked the President for his kind words during this obviously very difficult time. "I am humbled by [Obama family's] comfort and messages of strength and inspiration which I have already conveyed to Madiba," Machel said. The president chose not to see Mandela in person in accordance with the family's wishes. The vigil outside of the hospital has drawn huge crowds and has overshadowed Obama's three-day visit to South Africa.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.