Obama and Castro to share stage at Mandela memorial

2013-12-10 07:15

US president Barack Obama and his counterpart Raul Castro of the US’s long-time foe, Cuba, will be sharing a stage at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service today.

Both will be among the six world leaders chosen to pay tribute to Mandela, with Obama first on the list and Castro having the last say.

The communist Cuba and capitalist US haven’t had good diplomatic or trade relations for over 50 years.

Other foreign dignitaries expected to pay tribute are president Dilma Rousseff from Brazil, vice-president Li Yuanchao from China, president Pranab

Mukherjee from India and president Hifikepunye Pohamba from Namibia, who is also Southern African Development Community chair at the moment.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is the only Brics president not paying tribute. The European Union isn’t represented on the tribute list, but African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will both deliver short speeches.

Two other long-time foes among the guests will be Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and former British prime minister Tony Blair, whom Mugabe has harshly criticised in the past.

President Jacob Zuma will be delivering a keynote speech and there will be tributes from four grandchildren.

Former Robben Island prisoner, long-time Madiba friend and ANC veteran and MP Andrew Mlangeni will also address the crowd at FNB Stadium.

The ANC’s contribution to the memorial is through its master of ceremonies – its deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and chairperson Baleka Mbete will have their time to shine in this capacity.

Bishop Ivan Abrahams will be delivering the sermon, and Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokhonyane will deliver the vote of thanks to conclude proceedings.

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