Ailing Mandela Opens Eyes, Smiles on Hearing of Obama’s South Africa Trip

By Keir Simmons and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, NBC News [captionid=”attachment_26916″align=”alignleft” width=”300″]Nelson Mandela  and President Barack Obama. Nelson Mandela and President Barack Obama.[/caption] Nelson Mandela “opened his eyes” and smiled after being told of President Barack Obama’s imminent visit to South Africa, his daughter said Tuesday, adding to speculation that the two men might meet. The 94-year-old remains in a critical condition, South Africa’s government said Tuesday as relatives gathered at his home for a family meeting that local media reports described as “urgent.” The anti-apartheid campaigner and democracy icon has been in hospital with a lung infection since June 8. His condition was downgraded over the weekend from “serious but stable” to “critical.” Obama was due to leave Wednesday for Senegal, his first stop in a tour of Africa, before heading to South Africa on Friday. Officials have said it is up to Mandela’s family to decide if the former leader is well enough to meet the president, and no meeting is scheduled. Zindzi Mandela said Tuesday that she had said to her father: “Obama is coming.” “He opened his eyes and gave me a smile,” she said. She was speaking after relatives and chief members of Mandela’s clan gathered for a meeting at his rural home in Qunu, Eastern Cape province, on Tuesday morning. Among those who arrived at the homestead were his grandson Mandla Mandela and other family members, Thanduxolo Mandela, Ndaba Mandela, and Ndileka Mandela. A South Africa Press Association correspondent said the meeting followed an “urgent call” reportedly made by the former president’s children and quoted Napilisi Mandela, an elder in the Mandela family, as saying the meeting was being called “to discuss delicate matters.”
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