Obamas to travel to SA for Mandela memorial

Mail and Guardian

06 Dec 2013 19:45 Sapa

The White House says US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will travel to South Africa next week to pay respects to Nelson Mandela.

Barack Obama. (Reuters)                    
Barack Obama. (Reuters)


White House press secretary Jay Carney says the Obamas will travel to South Africa next week to pay respects to Nelson Mandela, but didn’t say specifically what day they planned to be in South Africa.

The South African government announced that Mandela would be honoured with a state burial on December 15.

Meanwhile, former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton remembered Nelson Mandela as a “giant among us” who showed the world how to respond to injustice and tragedy.

Former president Bill Clinton and Hillary were close friends of the anti-apartheid leader who led South Africa in the 1990s.

Hillary says Mandela understood the importance of bringing democracy and freedom to South Africa and showed others how to live a life of integrity. She spoke on Friday in Washington.

Bill Clinton tweeted a photograph of himself holding the hand of a smiling Mandela, accompanied by the line: “I will never forget my friend Madiba”.

Celebrity tributes Other celebrities and politicians took to Twitter.

British comedian Eddie Izzard, who once tried to run 27 marathons in 27 days as a tribute to Mandela, but was forced to give up for medical reasons, tweeted that Mandela “might be the greatest person that has ever lived”.

“Nelson Mandela gives us a legacy that all of humanity can aspire to,” he said.

British journalist and television personality Piers Morgan expressed his sympathy with South Africans.  “The world’s lost an iconic leader, South Africa’s lost its very soul. My deepest condolences to those wonderful people.”

Titanic and Django Unchained star Leonardo DiCaprio hailed South Africa’s first black president as a hero.

“A hero, we honor. MT @NelsonMandela When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people&country, he can rest in peace #Madiba,” he posted.

Suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi tweeted photographs of his family with Mandela.

“My family will for ever cherish the honour of spending a day with the international icon,” he commented.

Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille kept up a steady stream of Mandela-related tweets on Friday.

One of her posts read “Today we light a candle in the bedroom where Madiba spent the night putting together his 1st cabinet before his 1st Parliament.#RIPMadiba”.

British Prime Minister David Cameron Twitter post read:

“The Union flag and South African flag are flying at half mast above No10 today”.

His text was accompanied by a photograph of the flags at Cameron’s official residence at 10 Downing Street.

British Labour party leader Ed Miliband recalled that Mandela had referred to Britain as “the second headquarters of our movement” at a time when international pressure was mounting against the apartheid regime.

“Today I remember his courage and those who sustained the movement,” Miliband said on Twitter.

Remembered City Press editor Ferial Haffajee commented on the timing of the memorial service for Mandela to be held at the FNB Stadium on Tuesday, tweeting: “Appropriately, a memorial on Human Rights Day, December 10.”

British comedian and social activist Stephen Fry hailed Madiba’s magnanimity and spirit of reconciliation.

“Mandela invited his Robben Island jailers to his inauguration – Class.”

Local radio comedian Trevor Noah, who had a photograph of Mandela as his Twitter profile picture wrote: “Nelson Mandela – One of the funniest and most amazing human beings I’ve ever met. We celebrate your life”.

Mandela has been an anti-apartheid icon and his nation’s first black president. He died on Thursday at age 95.

In remarks following Mandela’s death, Obama counted himself as one of the countless millions who have been inspired by the South African leader. – Sapa M&G

2 responses to “Obamas to travel to SA for Mandela memorial

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