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Clinton visits Mandela, 94, at home during African tour

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid her respects to the former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela and had lunch with his wife, Graca Machel. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

QUNU, South Africa - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the "beautiful" smile of her friend and former South African President Nelson Mandela when they met at his country home on Monday during her multi-nation trade and security tour through Africa.

Mandela, in failing health, has only seen a few visitors outside his family in recent years. During his 94th birthday celebration last month, the anti-apartheid leader met Hillary's husband and former President Bill Clinton.


Hillary Clinton was greeted by Mandela's wife Graca Machel at the salmon-colored house set amid rolling hills.

Jacquelyn Martin / AFP - Getty Images

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, right, poses for a photograph Monday with Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel at the former president's home in Qunu, South Africa.

'Madiba's smile is a trademark'
Inside, Mandela, wearing a gray cardigan and sitting in a wingback chair with his legs covered by a throw, smiled for a picture, but he did not speak in the presence of reporters.

"That's a beautiful smile!" Clinton said.

"Madiba's smile is a trademark," Machel said, affectionately referring to Mandela by his Xhosa clan name. "Beautiful women! Madiba -- that's what he loves!"

Mandela's 'Rainbow Nation' determined to succeed

Afterward, Clinton, Machel and the others went into the main dining room for lunch. Mandela remained in the living room with his medical attendants.

Nelson Mandela celebrated his 94th birthday last month, another remarkable accomplishment after enduring so much in the name of freedom. Two decades after the end of apartheid in South Africa the divide between the rich and poor is still strikingly visible, but today's young adults have great hopes for the future. NBC's Ron Allen reports.

Mandela retired from public life
Mandela's single term as president from 1994 to 1999 came during the Clinton presidency, with Mandela and the Clintons meeting often during the period.

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View images of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who went from anti-apartheid activist to prisoner to South Africa's first black president.

Hillary Clinton, then first lady, was one of the leaders of the U.S. delegation for Mandela's inauguration as South Africa's first democratically elected president, calling it a "milestone of the 20th century."

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"I was on the verge of tears the whole time," she said just after the event in 1994.

A few months later, the Clintons welcomed Mandela with a state dinner at the White House.

In 1995, Mandela showed Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea his tiny prison cell on Robben Island where he spent most of his 27 years in jail for trying to bring down the white-minority apartheid regime.

NBC's Ron Allen asked three students from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg for their impressions of South Africa's past  -- and if they feel  positive about their own futures.  

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Mandela's last major public appearance was at the 2010 World Cup soccer final in Johannesburg. He has spent almost all his time since then at his homes in Johannesburg and in the Eastern Cape town of Qunu, near where he was born. 

Reuters, The Associated Press and NBC News staff contributed to this report. 

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