First Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by her daughters and her mother, visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation and was given a tour by Graca Machel, Mandela’s wife, of an exhibit chronicling the 27 years Mandela was imprisoned at Robben Island. / Courtesy photoFirst Lady Michelle Obama, accompanied by her daughters and her mother, visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation and was given a tour by Graca Machel, Mandela's wife, of an exhibit chronicling the 27 years Mandela was imprisoned at Robben Island.
After the tour, the Obamas went to the official residence of Mandela, who welcomed her entire family, including a niece and nephew travelling with them.
Mandela, who turns 93 next month, has received few guests since January when he was admitted to hospital with an acute respiratory infection.
Mrs. Obama met briefly with Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, one of President Jacob Zuma's three wives, and a group of about 100 invitees in Pretoria, but she not get a meeting with the President.
South African officials insisted that Zuma was simply busy – but in fact the visit coincides with a cooling in relations between South Africa and the U.S. Last week, President Zuma issued a sharp riposte to an appeal to African leaders by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to help remove Libya's Col. Muammar Gaddafi.
"We strongly believe that the (U.N. Security Council) resolution is being abused for regime change, political assassinations and foreign military occupation," Zuma told parliament the day after Clinton's speech.
Professor Chris Landsberg, head of the University of Johannesburg's politics department, said even if it was not a snub, it was a "missed opportunity".
"There is no doubt there's been some irritation on both sides over Libya," he said. "It might perhaps have been a chance for Mrs Obama to pass some direct messages from her husband, clarify the position and ease some tensions."