Michelle Obama visits Soweto

2011-06-22 08:30

Scores of people gathered at the Regina Mundi church in Orlando, Soweto, this morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of US First Lady Michelle Obama.

Obama, who arrived in South Africa on Monday, is set to give a speech mostly targeted at the young women leaders present in the hall.

While the media arrived at 4am, others arrived in dribs and drabs – including school children, celebrities and some government delegates, clad for the chilly Johannesburg weather.

“I’m here for Mrs O,” said Idols contestant Noluthando Meje, who attended as part of the Young Women’s Leadership Forum.

Also present was Graça Machel, who arrived with an entourage of about 10 people – including security officers and personnel from the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Baleka Mbete also arrived with security, but like all who entered the church, she had to go through a security check.The check included bags being examined, cameras being switched off and food being disposed of.

“I feel bad that I have to throw food away like that, but you have to understand that we have to do this for security purposes,” said a security guard.

Obama is accompanied on her trip to South Africa by her daughters, Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Robinson.

The proceedings began with a song, “Bawo Ndixolele”, before a church member blessed all present with a prayer.

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, dressed in a cerise-pink outfit, spoke briefly about leadership among young women, the celebration of former president Nelson Mandela’s upcoming birthday and the death of Albertina Sisulu before addressing Obama and her family.

“Welcome to the beautiful Gauteng, Mrs Michelle Obama. We hope you enjoy your visit and get a chance to see Vilakazi Street ... and experience the humility of the people of Soweto,” she said.

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