President Barack Obama on Thursday said his thoughts and prayers were with the family of ailing former President Nelson Mandela and confirmed he still planned to travel to South Africa in the coming days.

A message of support hangs from a tree outside the home of former President Nelson Mandela in Houghton, Johannesburg

President Obama said if Mr Mandela dies, his legacy would live on for ages.

Obama is in the middle of a three country tour of Africa. There was some speculation he would delay or skip his stop in South Africa if Mandela were to die in order to avoid creating a distraction or logistical problems for the government.