US keeps mum on Jacob Zuma’s booing

2013-12-11 18:06

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The United States appears to be keeping out of the fray after President Jacob Zuma was publicly booed in front of President Barack Obama and 90 other heads of state at Nelson Mandela’s memorial yesterday.

In a telecon with South African journalists this afternoon, US ambassador Patrick Gaspard would not comment on the booing.

Instead, he said “people (in the US delegation who attended the memorial) remarked on the positive outpouring of support” by South Africans towards Mandela.

Zuma was booed at least five times yesterday at the memorial service.

Gaspard said: “The president (Obama) got some of his best energy from the spirit that was in the audience.” This included people waving flags, beating drums and singing affirmatively about Mandela.

Asked about the positive reception Obama had received, Gaspard said the president remarked about the occasion, but did not say anything about how he was received.

He also denied that Obama’s handshake with one of America’s long-time foes, president Raúl Castro from Cuba, meant anything more than a mere handshake in the light of the message of reconciliation that had he brought in his speech.

Gaspard said Obama’s message was directed as personal condolences to Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel.

“When Obama took to the stage he appropriately shook the hands of those who were there. It was in that space that it took place,” he said.

Gaspard also did not take kindly to a light-hearted jibe about Obama’s selfie that he took on stage yesterday with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

A picture of them posing for the selfie sparked discussions on social media networks.

“Yesterday was an incredibly important day. We won’t allow petty cynicism to detract from that,” he said.

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