President Obama met privately with members of Nelson Mandela's family but he will not visit the ailing 94-year-old leader in the hospital out of respect for his health condition.
Instead, Obama met with the former South African President's daughters Makaziwe Mandela and Zindzi Mandela Hlongwane, as well as a number of his grandchildren.
Obama said afterward that he had also spoken to Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, by phone while she is at her husband’s side in the hospital in Pretoria.
"I expressed my hope that Madiba draws peace and comfort from the time that he is spending with loved ones,” Obama said after meeting with the family, referring to Mandela by his clan name, 'Madiba'.
"I also reaffirmed the profound impact that his legacy has had in building a free South Africa, and in inspiring people around the world — including me. That’s a legacy that we must all honor in our own lives, including this July on Mandela Day."
Machel said in a statement that she drew strength from the support of Obama and his family.
"Having taken the time to telephone me to express their solidarity and meet our children, they have added a touch of personal warmth that is characteristic of the Obama family. I am humbled by their comfort and messages of strength and inspiration which I have already conveyed to Madiba," she said.
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Saturday marks Obama's first full day in South Africa. After the meeting, the president's motorcade left the Mandela center in Johannesburg for Soweto for a young leaders town hall event.
On Sunday, he will travel to Cape Town for a tour of Robben Island, where Mandela spent decades as a political prisoner.