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Obama meets Mandela’s family in South Africa

Obama meets Mandela’s family in South Africa

Kali McCarthy

June 29th, 2013

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obamaPRETORIA, South Africa – President Obama met privately Saturday with relatives of former South African President Nelson Mandela, the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon who has been hospitalized more than three weeks with a lung infection.

In a statement released by the White House, Obama referred to Mandela as “Madiba,” which is Mandela’s clan name.

“I expressed my hope that Madiba draws peace and comfort from the time that he is spending with loved ones, and also expressed my heartfelt support for the entire family as they work through this difficult time,” Obama said. “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.

Obama met with Mandela’s daughters Makaziwe (Maki) Mandela and Zindzi Mandela Hlongwane and eight of his grandchildren at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg on Obama’s first day in South Africa after arriving from Senegal.

Obama did not meet with Mandela, but told reporters on the flight to South Africa that he was grateful that he, his wife and daughters had a chance to meet Mandela previously, the Associated Press reports. Obama hangs his photo of the introduction he had to Mandela in 2005 in his personal office at the White House — their only meeting, when Obama was a senator. He calls Mandela a “personal hero.”

“If and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we’ll all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages,” Obama said Thursday.

Some were disappointed Obama and Mandela wouldn’t be meeting again.

“I think (Mandela) wants to see the black (American president),” said Alac Mojela, 45, a chauffeur in Pretoria. “Before he can leave this world, he must say something to Obama.”

Meanwhile, outside the hospital, South Africans held prayer vigils, left gifts and waited for news of his condition, which his former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela had showed “great improvement” compared with a few days ago.

Contributing: Anne Godlasky, USA TODAY

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