Zee Media Bureau
Johannesburg: After wrapping up a visit to Senegal, US President Barack Obama heads to South Africa on Friday hoping to meet Nelson Mandela, the critically ill anti-apartheid leader.
On Thursday, Obama described Mandela as a hero for the world, adding the former South African president`s legacy will linger through the ages.
Mandela`s story of imprisonment and emergence as an iconic figure of reconciliation has given me a sense of what is possible when "righteous people, people of good will work together for a larger cause," said Obama during a press conference in Dakar with Senegalese President Macky Sall.
Mandela, 94, has been hospitalised since June 08 for what the South African government said was a recurring lung infection.
Also yesterday, the South African government announced that Mandela`s health improved overnight and although his condition remains critical it is now stable.
One of the former president`s daughters said he is still opening his eyes and reacting to the touch of his family even though his situation is precarious.
The report that the health of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader had taken a turn for the better came amid a growing sense in South Africa that Mandela was approaching the end of his life. Well-wishers have delivered flowers and messages of support to the Pretoria hospital where he is being treated, and prayer sessions were held around the country on Thursday.
South African President Jacob Zuma`s office said in a statement that he received the encouraging update from the medical team that is treating Mandela. Zuma had cancelled an international trip on Thursday, instead visiting Mandela for the second time in two days.
Mandela`s condition is acknowledged to be grave. He is on life support systems, according to a few television networks that quote anonymous sources, and presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj has declined to confirm or deny those reports.
(With Agency inputs)