US President Barack Obama paid tribute to anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela as he flew to South Africa on Friday but played down expectations of a meeting with the ailing black leader during an Africa tour promoting democracy and food security.
White House officials hope Obamas three-nation tour of Africa – his first substantial visit to the continent since taking office in 2009 – will compensate for what some view as years of neglect by Americas first black president.
Food security,along with anti-corruption measures and trade opportunities for US companies,are topics the White House wants to highlight on Obamas eight-day tour. But the health of Mandela,the 94-year-old former South African president clinging to life in a Pretoria hospital,dominated Obamas day even before he arrived in Johannesburg.
I dont need a photo op, Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One after leaving Senegal. The last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned with Nelson Mandelas condition.
South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday said Mandelas condition had improved but he remained in a critical state.
Nearly 1,000 trade unionists,Muslim activists and South African Communist Party members marched through the capital to the US Embassy,where they burned an American flag and called Obamas foreign policy arrogant and oppressive. Muslim activists held prayers in a car park outside the embassy. Leader Imam Sayeed Mohammed told the group: We hope that Mandela feels better and that Obama can learn from him.
Obama sees Mandela,also known as Madiba,as a hero. Whether they are able to meet or not,officials said his trip would serve largely as a tribute to the anti-apartheid leader.
Mandelas alleged love child snubbed
JOHANNESBURG: A woman with a startling resemblance to ailing former President Nelson Mandela has been turned away from the hospital where the leader is being treated,as she attempted to see the man she claims is her father,a media report said Friday. Onica Nyembezi Mothoa,65,claims she is Mandelas love child born in 1947 to her mother Sophie Majeni when the latter was a domestic worker. Mothoa told The Star ,I dont want him to die before I meet him. I dont know why the family is not allowing him to tell them if he knows anything about my mother.. If they are not hiding anything,why are they not giving him the opportunity to meet me, Mothoa told the daily. PTI