Obama: I’m here thanks to the struggle

2013-06-30 10:40

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President Barack Obama has praised South Africa’s struggle heroes for helping him arrive at where he is today.

“I wouldn’t be here if it were not for the freedom fighters,” he told dignitaries while proposing a toast at a state banquet in his honour in Pretoria last night.

It is Obama’s first visit to South Africa since being elected the first black president of the United States in 2008. He visited the country before as a senator, which he said gave him the opportunity to walk in the streets and meet ordinary people, something he couldn’t do now.

He said the US was inspired by South Africa’s transition into democracy. “We were inspired by you to believe anything is possible, such as that the son of an African man could become (US) president,” he said.

He also said the South African sacrifice to fight apartheid found resonance in the US civil rights movement.

Obama also paid homage to former president Nelson Mandela, who lay in the Medi-Clinic Heart hospital not far from the presidential guest house, where the dinner was held.

Obama read the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley and proposed a toast to “a man who has always been the master of his fate and who taught us we could be the master of ours”.

He also praised Zuma as a leader who has continued the tradition of the struggle.

At a press conference earlier in the day, a journalist asked Zuma if the ANC of today was the same one as in the time of Mandela.

Zuma said the policies the party was pursuing today were still the same ones crafted at the birth of South Africa’s democracy in 1994.

“What we’ve been doing is to enhance those policies and deepening them,” he said.

“I’ve had an opportunity, perhaps because of the job I’ve been given, that when Madiba was a pensioner sitting at his home, I visited him very regularily,” he said, adding that Mandela “expressed happiness” at the way the ANC has been governing.

“So I have no doubt what we’ve been doing is what Mandela would have been doing if he were here.”

Zuma said: “At some of the visits I made before his health changed, he was saying, ‘You know, when I go to sleep I’ll be very happy because I would know that I left South Africa moving forward’.”

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