Obama called Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, a “personal hero” during a visit to Senegal this week at the start of his three-country whistle-stop tour through Africa.
US officials says they will comply with the Mandela family’s wishes with regard to Obama visiting the ailing 94-year-old icon or meeting his relatives.
“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,” said Obama, who is due to land in the evening.
Makaziwe Mandela, the former president’s eldest daughter, told SABC television that her father was “waning” but is still responding to his children’s voice and touch.
“When you touch him he still responds, and for us as his progeny as long as tata (father) is still responding when we talk to him and touch him, I think that gives us hope,” she said.
South Africans have been laying wreaths of flowers outside the Pretoria clinic where Mandela is hospitalized and also near his home in Johannesburg.
Candles burned late into the night as people, often emotional, held vigils at the gate to the Pretoria clinic.
Mandela family members have thanked the public repeatedly for their prayers and well-wishes, saying it is giving them strength during a difficult time.
Mandela was hospitalized on June 8 for a recurring lung infection. His situation turned critical on Sunday. He has been hospitalized several times in recent years.
President Jacob Zuma on Thursday said Mandela’s condition was “critical but is now stable.”
A steady stream of family members and relatives have visited Mandela in hospital this week. – SAPA