Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Virunga Park chief shot

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algerian election: Bouteflika votes in wheelchair

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algeria's media: a mixture of censorship and free speech

Read more

DEBATE

Algeria: What's the Choice? Incumbent Bouteflika Votes in Wheelchair

Read more

WEB NEWS

Nigerian web users call for end to violence

Read more

FOCUS

Bitcoin in the US: A monetary revolution?

Read more

ENCORE!

Fast cars and slow trains

Read more

WEB NEWS

Chile: online mobilization to help Valparaiso fire victims

Read more

FACE-OFF

François Hollande: France's most unpopular president

Read more

  • With a strong French presence, veterans and fresh faces, Cannes aims to please

    Read more

  • Russia and West agree on steps to ease Ukraine crisis

    Read more

  • Nobel-winning Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87

    Read more

  • Low turnout in Algerian election tipped to return Bouteflika

    Read more

  • Chelsea Clinton says she is pregnant

    Read more

  • French troops free five aid workers kidnapped in Mali by Islamists

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • After cup defeat, Spanish pundits read last rites for Barcelona

    Read more

  • Frantic search for survivors of sunken South Korea ferry

    Read more

  • India heads to polls in single largest day of voting

    Read more

  • Ukraine talks open in Geneva as Putin talks tough on TV

    Read more

  • Pro-Russian separatists killed in attack on Black Sea base

    Read more

  • Man executed in Texas for 2002 triple murder

    Read more

  • Scandal-hit French doctor Jacques Servier dies at 92

    Read more

  • Belgian head of wildlife reserve shot in DR Congo

    Read more

  • Crunch talks on Ukraine begin in Geneva

    Read more

  • Stagehand of God? Maradona's legendary goal inspires a play

    Read more

  • US rolls out red carpet for French critic of capitalism

    Read more

  • N. Korea not amused by London hair salon's Kim Jong-un ad

    Read more

  • Real Madrid beat old foes Barcelona to lift Copa del Rey

    Read more

  • France's new PM targets welfare in drive to cut spending

    Read more

  • Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

    Read more

  • Brazil club Mineiro cancel Anelka signing after no-show

    Read more

  • Syria 'torture' photos silence UN Security Council members

    Read more

  • Paris laboratory loses deadly SARS virus samples

    Read more

Africa

Soweto welcomes Obama, ‘a man of peace like Mandela’

© Charlotte Boitiaux/FRANCE 24

Video by Catherine VIETTE

Text by Charlotte BOITIAUX

Latest update : 2013-06-29

Despite protests elsewhere, many locals in the township of Soweto have been looking forward to the arrival of Barack Obama, who was due to visit the nearby University of Johannesburg on Saturday to meet with South African students and entrepreneurs.

The noise is deafening, the smell of burnt food overpowering. It is 10 am on Saturday, June 29, and already Bara, Soweto township’s largest market, is in full swing.

Just a few hundred metres away lies the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg, where US President Barack Obama is expected to make an appearance later in the day as part of his first ever visit to South Africa.

The voice of James Blunt rings out from an old CD player sitting on the pavement and resonates around the market stalls.

"An American singer for the arrival of an American," says the CD player’s owner, Edward, though Blunt is actually British.

"I know that the US president comes to us today, I'm happy," he says as he sits cross-legged in front of a pile of clothes which he sells for 20 rand (1.50 euros) apiece.

‘He is an African’

Edward is just one of many locals looking forward to Obama’s arrival and the economic rewards it could bring for the region.

Eva and Stanley. © Charlotte Boitiaux/FRANCE 24

"If you see him, tell him to come here with even more business," says Stanley, a 78-year-old South African wearing a black cap to shield himself from the sun as the day begins to warm up.

Standing next to him, his friend Eva is also looking forward to the President’s visit.

"We need jobs, and that’s something he can provide," she says with a laugh.

There is also a sense of pride among some South Africans at welcoming the first ever black US president to their country.

"He is an African" says Petruce enthusiastically, speaking in Zulu while handing out flyers for his stall where he sells DVDs at 10 rand (75 cents) each.

"I think he treats people well, he is a man of peace like Mandela. Economics is fine, but respect for human beings is better," he adds.

Mandela has spent the past three weeks in a Pretoria hospital where his health is said to be in a critical condition. But for both Petruce and Eva, there is no sense that the timing of Obama’s visit is in any way disrespectful.

"Life must go on," says Eva, "I do not think Mandela would have wanted us not to give him a warm welcome, he wouldn’t have liked that.”

‘We like him but he should come back another time’

Just the day before, however, around 300 demonstrators took to the streets of Pretoria to voice their disapproval of Obama’s visit, with many feeling that now is not the time for business deals and economic negotiations.

Soweto township. © Charlotte Boitiaux/FRANCE 24

“The people are at Mandela’s bedside, they don’t want to see Obama landing with his money and arrogance," says Boitumelo, a student and member of the South African Communist Party.

"We like him but he should come back another time,” added her friend Becky.

Others have been more outspoken in their criticisms of the US president, some even comparing him to a “terrorist”, a term that was assigned to Mandela during apartheid.

“He is the opposite of Mandela, a man who makes war and promised to close Guantanamo but did nothing,” says Nizam Omar, a South African involved with the Palestinian cause.

Though Obama will not be visiting Mandela in hospital, he did meet with the anti-apartheid hero’s family on Saturday. The US President, who left Senegal on Friday, will spend a total of three days in South Africa as part of a week-long trip to the continent.

Date created : 2013-06-29

  • SOUTH AFRICA

    Obama meets with Mandela family in South Africa

    Read more

  • USA - AFRICA

    Obama pushes gay rights in Africa on Senegal trip

    Read more

  • SOUTH AFRICA

    ‘Thanks to Mandela, my kids can read and write’

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)