President Obama arrives in South Africa amid Mandela′s critical yet ″improving″ health | News | DW | 28.06.2013
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President Obama arrives in South Africa amid Mandela's critical yet "improving" health

US President Barack Obama has arrived in South Africa on the second leg of his African tour. His visit comes as the country’s former leader, Nelson Mandela, remains in critical health despite "improvements."

President Obama touched down in South Africa Friday evening from Senegal, where he started his three-country tour in Africa.

On Saturday, Obama is scheduled to meet South African President Jacob Zuma, which is to be followed by a joint press conference.

The visit comes as South Africa's former president and anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela, is gravely ill in hospital.

Obama and hs wife, Michelle, will meet with members of Mandela's family, but will not visit the hospital themselves.

"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 about Nelson Mandela's condition," he said.

While in Senegal, 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," he said.

Following his visit to South Africa, Obama is scheduled to go to Tanzania.

All eyes on Mandela's health

On Friday, Mandela's ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela said his health was showing signs of "great" improvement.

"From what he was a few days ago, there is great improvement, but clinically he is still unwell," she said.

She also called on the international media not to "get carried away" in reporting and asked the press to "understand the sensitivities and the feeling of the family."

Jacob Zuma's office announced in a statement Thursday that the president had received encouraging news from Mandela's medical team. The announcement came after Zuma canceled a planned international trip in order to visit Mandela for the second day running.

"I canceled my visit to Mozambique today so that I can see him and confer with the doctors," Zuma said. "He is much better today than he was when I saw him last night."

Mandela has been hospitalized for more than two weeks after being admitted for a lung infection. During his 27-year imprisonment under the postcolonial apartheid regime, Mandela developed tuberculosis, leading to permanent lung damage.

hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)