President Obama to meet Nelson Mandela's family privately, but not the man himself

(CNN) -- President Barack Obama and the first lady will meet privately with Nelson Mandela's family Saturday, but they will not visit the ailing anti-apartheid icon at the hospital.

The president and Michelle Obama will not see him "out of deference to Nelson Mandela's peace and comfort, and the family's wishes," the White House said in a statement.

Obama in undertaking his first full day of activities in South Africa, a nation where hearts are heavy over the poor health of the revered statesman.

Following bilateral talks with South African President Jacob Zuma, the two leaders held a joint news conference in Pretoria.

Both paid tribute to Mandela's contributions as an anti-apartheid campaigner and former president.

"I know that he is your personal hero, as well as the president," Zuma. said "The two of you are also bound by history, as the first black presidents of your respective countries. Thus, you both carry the dreams of millions of people in Africa and in the diaspora who were previously oppressed."

Trade, other ties

Obama said the thoughts of Americans and people worldwide are with Mandela, his family and South Africans.

"The struggle here against apartheid, for freedom; Madiba's moral courage; this country's historic transition to a free and democratic nation has been a personal inspiration to me. It has been an inspiration to the world," he said.

The two presidents also addressed the importance of growing trade and business relationships between their nations, and between the United States and the continent.

Obama urged African nations to question whether those who come to invest in the country and its natural resources were seeking to benefit Africans, in terms of jobs and "value added," or only themselves and a few top leaders.

Zuma brought up South Africa's desire to have a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Obama said he wanted to update the Security Council, but that to do so was complicated and would involve politics. He also pointed out that some nations want a seat at the table, but do not live up to their responsibilities to act or take difficult decisions.

Obama's visit to Africa's biggest economy is part of a three-nation trip that started in Senegal, and will end in Tanzania next week.

Asked about his father's native Kenya, where some are disappointed at Obama's decision not to visit despite his family ties, the U.S. president said the timing was not right.

"Kenya is one of our oldest partners in Africa. We work with them on all sorts of issues. And that will continue. My ties to Kenya by definition will be strong," he said. He pointed out that he had visited multiple times in the past and would do so again.

Critical but stable

Zuma said Mandela was still in critical condition following his hospitalization with a recurring lung infection three weeks ago,

A meeting between the U.S. president and Mandela would have had historic significance.

Like Obama, Mandela broke through racial barriers to become the first black president of South Africa. The two have met before, but that was prior to Obama's election to the highest political office in the United States. He was a senator at the time.

Mandela retains massive popularity despite his retirement from the presidency in 1999.

As his condition has deteriorated, South Africans have gathered outside the hospital, praying, lighting candles and leaving notes for the man they refer to as "tata," the Xhosa word for father.

Mandela became an international figure while enduring 27 years in prison for fighting apartheid, South Africa's system of racial segregation. He was elected the nation's first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed.

Even as he has faded from the spotlight, he remains popular worldwide as an icon of peaceful reconciliation.

"If and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we'll all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages," Obama said.

The trip aims to bolster investment opportunities for the U.S., address development issues such as food security and health, and promote democracy. It comes as China aggressively engages the continent, pouring billions of dollars into it and replacing the United States as Africa's largest trading partner.

In addition to a series of events planned for the weekend, Obama will also visit Robben Island, where Mandela spent a majority of his decades in prison.

CNN's Todd Sperry contributed to this report.

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