Mandela's condition not to effect Obama's visit: President Zuma

Johannesburg, June 24 (IANS) South African President Jacob Zuma said Monday that the condition of ailing Nelson Mandela will not have any influence on the visiting US President Barack Obama's upcoming visit this week, Xinhua reported.

The 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader is spending his 17th day in a Pretoria hospital due to a recurring lung infection and hopes of a recovery are ebbing.

Zuma, who visited Mandela Sunday night, said the former South African president remained in critical condition and doctors were doing everything to ensure he was comfortable.

Obama is scheduled to undertake a state visit to South Africa Friday as part of his first major African three-nation trip. It will be the first time for Obama to visit the country since assuming the office of US president in January 2009.

On Friday, the deputy US national security advisor Ben Rhodes said Obama's visit to the island would be an important and powerful symbol of the president' s respect for Mandela.

During his stay in South Africa, Obama will visit Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

Without giving any more detail, President Zuma said Mandela was asleep when he visited him Sunday night, The Guardian reported.

Addressing a press conference here, Zuma said he visited Mandela Sunday night and was told by doctors "that Madiba's (his clan name) health had changed in the past 24 hours and he was now critical".

Zuma, who was accompanied by Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of the African National Congress (ANC), added "they were doing everything to ensure that they give him good treatment, make him feel comfortable, as they have been doing all the time".

"I'm not a doctor to describe the condition, to say how critical. I think that's the business of the doctor."

Since last December, Mandela has been hospitalised on four occasions.

The 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner was elected the next year as South Africa's first black president in the first elections held there in which all South Africans were allowed to vote without regard to race.

His struggle and his efforts for national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to majority rule after four decades of white domination, earned Mandela recognition, as well as deep respect and admiration, around the world.

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