Obama travels to S. Africa as Mandela's condition worsens

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by CBS News

CBS News/ Associated Press

Posted on June 28, 2013 at 8:12 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 3:50 PM

(CBS News) -- President Obama headed to South Africa Friday, the second stop on his three-nation tour of Africa. The president left Senegal and will land at an air base outside of Pretoria, South Africa -- the scene of another major story as Nelson Mandela remains in critical condition.

It's been three weeks since Mandela was admitted to the hospital for the recurring lung infection that's progressively gotten worse. The condition is still described as critical but stable, but his general condition is understood to be on the decline.

With hope of a recovery fading, the hospital in Pretoria where Mandela lies hovering between life and death continues to be a place of pilgrimage. A class of young children were the first to offer tributes Friday.

After the crisis on Thursday, when the Mandela family was summoned to the hospital on the grim news that he had taken a turn for the worst, doctors managed to stabilize him.

But as the crowds have continued to build, the Mandela story has taken another ugly turn. With official news of his condition sparse and sometimes misleading, news reports - including ours - have provided more detail than the government has put out.

The conflict between the desire for privacy and the demand for honest information has caused friction.

That bubbled over in an interview given to South African TV by Mandela's daughter, Makaziwe Mandela. "It's like truly vultures, waiting when the lion has devoured the buffalo, waiting there to, you know, the last carcass," she said. "That's the image that we have as a family, and we don't mind interest, but I just think it has gone overboard."

And into this long, sad drama, Mr. Obama is due to arrive. He has met Mandela before, when he was in the United States, considers him an inspirational figure and had wanted to meet him and family members in South Africa. But the White House said the president will follow the family's lead on what's possible.

Mandela's fate seems to be in the hands of those who determine how much medical intervention to continue to provide. And, thus far, nobody seems to be able or willing to make that decision.

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