Obama won’t push for a Madiba visit

2013-06-23 14:00

US President Barack Obama would like to see former president Nelson Mandela or his family when he visits South Africa this week, but only if the elderly statesman’s health allows it.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, will leave Washington on Wednesday for a week-long trip to three African nations, focusing on economic development, democracy building and private sector investment.

Among the highlights for the president will be bilateral meetings with the leaders of Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, visits to Senegal’s supreme court, tours of Senegal’s slave museum on Goreé Island, a power plant in Tanzania and the site of the prison where NelsonMandela was held for two decades on Robben Island.

Deputy US national security adviser Ben Rhodes told journalists during a telecon briefing on Friday night: “We will be very deferential to the Mandela family in terms of any interaction the president may have with?.?.?.?NelsonMandela.”

He added that “ultimately, we want whatever is in the best interests of his health and the peace of mind of the Mandela family”.

If Obama “has an opportunity to see the family in some capacity, that’s certainly something that we may do”, he said.

Mandela was the first black president of South Africa, while Obama is the first black president of the US. Rhodes praised Mandela for “so much of the democratic progress we have seen in South Africa” and in Africa.

“He didn’t just stand up to apartheid, but also helped bring a peaceful transition.”

Rhodes refused to say how much Obama’s trip would cost after reports of a $60 million to $100?million (R610?million to R1 billion) bill in the Washington Post.

“We don’t have the exact costs,” he said, adding this would be determined by security requirements, which are out of the hands of the White House.

How a US president rolls

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