FILE - This two-picture combination of file photos shows Nelson Mandela on Aug. 8, 2012, left, and President Barack Obama on May 31, 2013. It was as a college student that President Barack Obama began to find his political voice. Inspired by Nelson Mandela’s struggle against South Africa’s apartheid government, the young Obama joined campus protests against the white racist rule that kept Mandela locked away in prison for nearly three decades. Now a historic, barrier-breaking figure himself, Obama will arrive in South Africa Friday to find a country drastically transformed by Mandela’s influence, and a nation grappling with the beloved 94-year-old’s mortality. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - This two-picture combination of file photos shows Nelson Mandela on Aug. 8, 2012, left, and President Barack Obama on May 31, 2013. It was as a college student that President Barack Obama began to find his political voice. Inspired by Nelson Mandela’s struggle against South Africa’s apartheid government, the young Obama joined campus protests against the white racist rule that kept Mandela locked away in prison for nearly three decades. Now a historic, barrier-breaking figure himself, Obama will arrive in South Africa Friday to find a country drastically transformed by Mandela’s influence, and a nation grappling with the beloved 94-year-old’s mortality. (AP Photo/File)

Obama lands in SA

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Jun 29, 2013

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Johannesburg - US President Barack Obama has landed in South Africa.

But America’s first black president will not visit his hero Nelson Mandela, who is spending his 21st day in hospital in a critical condition on Saturday.

“I do not need a photo op. The last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive,” Obama said aboard Air Force One. “I think that the message we’ll want to deliver is not directly to him but to his family, is simply profound gratitude for his leadership all these years.”

Reflections on Mandela’s extraordinary life will permeate Obama’s three-day stay, part of a three-nation Africa tour. Obama led a chorus of support for the man he called a “hero for the world”.

And Mandela’s plight has lent a deeply poignant tone to the visit.

“The president will be speaking to the legacy of Nelson Mandela and that will be a significant part of our time in South Africa,” said US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

A visit by Obama to Mandela’s former jail cell on Robben Island on Sunday would now take on extra “profundity”, he said.

The US president recalled how Mandela had inspired him to take up political activity, when he campaigned for the anti-apartheid movement as a student in the late 1970s. The men met in 2005, when Mandela was in Washington, and Obama was a newly elected senator, and the two have spoken by telephone. But there has been no face-to-face meeting since Obama was elected in 2008.

During his trip, Obama is also due to host a town hall meeting at the University of Johannesburg’s campus in Soweto, where Mandela once lived, as part of the US president’s Young African Leaders Initiative.

He will visit a community centre with fellow Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and give a speech at UCT.

 

On Friday Obama also accepted an honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Johannesburg. Obama will, however, not accept the award in person at this stage.

And while Obama will not be greeted warmly by a coalition of leftist, pro-Palestinian and anti-drone groups who protested in Pretoria yesterday, the rest of the country may welcome him with open arms.

On Friday, the government’s joint security operations team appealed to the public in Gauteng and the Western Cape not to gather on roadsides to sneak a glimpse of Obama and his convoy.

This request was made in the interest of public safety, said Brigadier Sally de Beer, spokeswoman for the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure.

Saturday Star

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