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South Africa's President Jacob Zuma insists Obama's visit to South Africa will go ahead despite Nelson Mandela's failing health

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Jacob Zuma has been re-elected head of the ANC (AP)

Jacob Zuma has been re-elected head of the ANC (AP)

Doctors are doing 'everything possible' to improve Nelson Mandela's condition

Doctors are doing 'everything possible' to improve Nelson Mandela's condition

PA Wire/Press Association Images

South African President Nelson Mandela, pictured in 2009 during celebrations of the opening of the One&Only Cape Town resort, Sol Kerzner's first hotel in his home country since 1992. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

South African President Nelson Mandela, pictured in 2009 during celebrations of the opening of the One&Only Cape Town resort, Sol Kerzner's first hotel in his home country since 1992. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

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South African President Nelson Mandela, pictured in August 2007 by Daniel Berehulak/PA Wire.

South African President Nelson Mandela, pictured in August 2007 by Daniel Berehulak/PA Wire.

PA

South African President Nelson Mandela, pictured in 2008 by Johnny Green/PA Wire

South African President Nelson Mandela, pictured in 2008 by Johnny Green/PA Wire

PA

Nelson Mandela receives his honorary doctorate from Sir Anthony O'Reilly

Nelson Mandela receives his honorary doctorate from Sir Anthony O'Reilly

The ailing anti-apartheid icon Nelson Madela was filmed on April 29, 2013. (AP Photo/SABC TV)

The ailing anti-apartheid icon Nelson Madela was filmed on April 29, 2013. (AP Photo/SABC TV)

AP

A newspaper seller holds the Sunday Times newspaper with the headline 'It's time to let him go' referring to words spoken by long-time friend of former president Nelson Mandela, Andrew Mlangeni, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday June 9, 2013.  Mlangeni uttered the words when he learnt that the former president had been hospitalized for a fourth time since December. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

A newspaper seller holds the Sunday Times newspaper with the headline 'It's time to let him go' referring to words spoken by long-time friend of former president Nelson Mandela, Andrew Mlangeni, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday June 9, 2013. Mlangeni uttered the words when he learnt that the former president had been hospitalized for a fourth time since December. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

AP

A boy kicks a ball behind a statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela outside the Groot Drakenstein correctional facility near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, Sunday, June 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

A boy kicks a ball behind a statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela outside the Groot Drakenstein correctional facility near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, Sunday, June 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

AP

A stained glass panel inside the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, South Africa   depicts former president Nelson Mandela during a church service on June 9, when worshippers were urged to pray for Mandela. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

A stained glass panel inside the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, South Africa depicts former president Nelson Mandela during a church service on June 9, when worshippers were urged to pray for Mandela. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

AP

A worshipper at morning mass at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, Sunday June 9, 2013. Churchgoers  were urged to pray for former president Nelson Mandela after he was hospitalized with a recurring lung infection. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

A worshipper at morning mass at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Soweto, Sunday June 9, 2013. Churchgoers were urged to pray for former president Nelson Mandela after he was hospitalized with a recurring lung infection. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

AP

Avia Nossel with a stone bearing a get-well message, held by her father, outside the home of former president Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg, on Saturday June 8, 2013. The stone was among others placed outside in flower beds from Mandela's previous hospital spells. (AP Photo)

Avia Nossel with a stone bearing a get-well message, held by her father, outside the home of former president Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg, on Saturday June 8, 2013. The stone was among others placed outside in flower beds from Mandela's previous hospital spells. (AP Photo)

AP

Worshippers praying for former president Nelson Mandela on a hill overlooking Johannesburg, at sunset, Saturday, June 8, 2013.The news Mandela was in a serious condition in hospital prompted an outpouring of concern from admirers of a man who helped to end white racist rule. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

Worshippers praying for former president Nelson Mandela on a hill overlooking Johannesburg, at sunset, Saturday, June 8, 2013.The news Mandela was in a serious condition in hospital prompted an outpouring of concern from admirers of a man who helped to end white racist rule. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

AP

Former South African President Nelson Mandela celebrating his 94th birthday with family in Qunu, South Africa, on July 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam-file)

Former South African President Nelson Mandela celebrating his 94th birthday with family in Qunu, South Africa, on July 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam-file)

AP

A flower pot with and stones painted and covered in graffiti wishing former South African President Nelson Mandela prompt recovery were set outside his Johannesburg home Monday, June 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

A flower pot with and stones painted and covered in graffiti wishing former South African President Nelson Mandela prompt recovery were set outside his Johannesburg home Monday, June 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

AP

Former South African President Nelson Mandela celebrating his 94th birthday with family in Qunu, South Africa, on July 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam-file)

Former South African President Nelson Mandela celebrating his 94th birthday with family in Qunu, South Africa, on July 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam-file)

AP

Press gather outside the hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was hospitalized with a recurring lung infection early Saturday, June 8, 2013. A presidential statement said that Mandela was in a serious but stable condition. (AP Photo)

Press gather outside the hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was hospitalized with a recurring lung infection early Saturday, June 8, 2013. A presidential statement said that Mandela was in a serious but stable condition. (AP Photo)

AP

A photo taken in June 2008 of former South African President Nelson Mandela. By Johnny Green/PA Wire

A photo taken in June 2008 of former South African President Nelson Mandela. By Johnny Green/PA Wire

PA

Nelson Mandela's wife Graca Machel, who cancelled an appearance at a hunger summit as her husband was treated in hospital for a lung infection. Photo by Daniel Berehulak/PA Wire

Nelson Mandela's wife Graca Machel, who cancelled an appearance at a hunger summit as her husband was treated in hospital for a lung infection. Photo by Daniel Berehulak/PA Wire

PA

Former South African President Nelson Mandela sitting at the Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Soweto, Johannesburg, on July 12, 2008.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela sitting at the Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Soweto, Johannesburg, on July 12, 2008.

A 1961 photo of Nelson Mandela, then a 42-year-old political activist and an able heavyweight boxer and physical culturist. The son of a minor chieftain, Mandela took his degree in Law at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

A 1961 photo of Nelson Mandela, then a 42-year-old political activist and an able heavyweight boxer and physical culturist. The son of a minor chieftain, Mandela took his degree in Law at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.

President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia in 1993, during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk.

President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia in 1993, during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk.

Springbok captain Francois Pienaar receives the Rugby World Cup from South African President Nelson Mandela at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 24 June, 1995.

Springbok captain Francois Pienaar receives the Rugby World Cup from South African President Nelson Mandela at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on 24 June, 1995.

Nelson Mandela chats with Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Nelson Mandela chats with Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Jacob Zuma has been re-elected head of the ANC (AP)

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma has said US President Barack Obama will still travel to his country despite the failing health of Nelson Mandela.

Mr Obama was due to meet his fellow Nobel peace laureate during a short tour of Africa this week.

However, Mr Zuma said: "Madiba (Mandela's clan name) has been unwell for quite a while. There's nothing that's going to stop the visit to South Africa because Mandela is sick. If you stopped that visit, people would ask questions. Mr Obama is coming whilst Madiba is in hospital not well."

Jack Hillmeyer, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Pretoria, said: "Obviously the president and the first lady and everyone is keeping him in their thoughts and prayers. We will be watching and following developments, but for now, we are continuing with preparations (for the visit)."

On Friday, before Mr Mandela's health took a downturn, Ben Rhodes, a deputy US national security adviser, said of the visit: "Ultimately, we want whatever is in the best interests of his (Mandela's) health and the peace of mind of the Mandela family . . . If he has an opportunity to see the family in some capacity, that's certainly something that we may do."

Before visiting South Africa, Mr Obama is due to visit Senegal. His final stop on the tour will be Tanzania.

Mr Mandela's deterioration has caused a switch in mood from prayers for recovery to preparations for a fond farewell.

"If it's his time to go, he can go. I wish God can look after him," said nurse Petunia Mafuyeka, as she headed to work in Johannesburg.

"We will miss him very much. He fought for us to give us freedom. We will remember him every day. When he goes I will cry."

Yesterday there was some concern among the public about doctors trying to prolong the life of South Africa's first black president, one of the 20th Century's most influential figures.

"I'm worried that they're keeping him alive. I feel they should let him go," said Doris Lekalakala, a claims manager.

"The man is old. Let nature take its course. He must just rest." (© Independent News Service)

Belfast Telegraph