12/10/13 - Orlando Sentinel (Florida) - Obama and Castro shake hands, Zuma humiliated at Mandela memorial
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama shook hands with
Cuba's Raul Castro at a memorial for Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, a
rare gesture between the leaders of two ideological opponents that
reflected the anti-apartheid hero's spirit of reconciliation.
But the peace and harmony did not stretch to South African President
Jacob Zuma, whom the crowd at the rain-soaked Soccer City stadium in
Johannesburg booed and jeered as he prepared to give his closing address.
Mandela's death on Thursday at the age of 95 has diverted attention from a
slew of corruption scandals in Zuma's administration, while underscoring
the gulf between South Africa's first black president, a towering figure of
the 20th century, and its fourth.
"Mandela had a vision. Mandela lived that vision," said Funeka
Gingcara-Sithole, 31, who was in the crowd. "But what Zuma speaks, he
doesn't live. He should do the honorable thing and resign."
Zuma's reception was a marked contrast to the rock-star welcome for Obama,
one of about 90 world leaders bidding farewell to Mandela in Johannesburg.
As he bounded onto the podium, Obama extended his hand to communist leader
Castro, who shook it and smiled back.
The only previous known handshake between U.S. and Cuban presidents since
the island's 1959 revolution was at the United Nations in 2000, when
Raul's brother Fidel shook the hand of then-U.S. president Bill Clinton
in a chance encounter.
Obama's gesture of friendship did not prevent him delivering tough words to
leaders who, he said, invoked Mandela's struggle against oppression while
quashing opposition and dissent at home.
"There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial
reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would
challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality," he said, speaking yards
away from Castro and Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao.
"There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for
freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people," he added, using
Mandela's clan name.
The crowd's reaction to Zuma - many also gave the thumbs down sign or
rolled their wrists in a soccer substitution gesture - is a worrying sign
for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as it heads towards an
election in six months.
Although Africa's biggest economy has undergone huge change since the end
of white-minority rule in 1994, it remains one of the world's most unequal
societies, plagued by poverty, crime and unemployment.
Even though its support is waning, the 101-year-old ANC is almost certain
to keep power in next year's vote. Party spokesman Jackson Mthembu
dismissed the jeers as a "little blot" marring an otherwise successful
"It came as a bolt to all of us. We were quite surprised," he told ENCA
television. "The ANC thinks that this would not have been the best platform
to convey such views."
Coinciding with U.N. Human Rights Day, the memorial at the stadium - scene
of the 2010 World Cup final - was the centerpiece of a week of mourning for
Mandela, who was revered across the world as a symbol of reconciliation and
SINGING IN THE RAIN
He shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with South Africa's last white
president, F.W. de Klerk.
"He was more than one of the greatest leaders of our time. He was one of
our greatest teachers," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the
crowd. "His baobab tree has left deep roots that reach across the planet."
Since Mandela's death, Johannesburg has been blanketed in cloud and
torrential rain - a sign, according to African culture, of an esteemed
elder passing on and being welcomed into the afterlife by his ancestors.
The atmosphere before the ceremony was one of joy and celebration, more
akin to the opening game of the World Cup.
Whites and blacks danced, waved flags, blew plastic "vuvuzela" trumpets and
sang anthems from the long struggle against apartheid. The packed carriages
of commuter trains heading to the ground swayed side-to-side with the
"I was here in 1990 when Mandela was freed and I am here again to say
goodbye," said Beauty Pule, 51. "I am sure Mandela was proud of the South
Africa he helped create. It's not perfect but no one is perfect, and we
have made great strides."
The celebrities in attendance included singers Bono and Peter Gabriel, film
star Charlize Theron, model Naomi Campbell and Virgin boss Richard
Branson. Francois Pienaar, captain of the 1995 rugby World Cup-winning
Springbok side, was also in the stands.
After Tuesday's event, Mandela's remains were to lie in state for three
days at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he was sworn in as president
He will be buried on Sunday in Qunu, his ancestral home in the rolling
hills of the Eastern Cape province, 700 km (450 miles) south of
Johannesburg. Only a few world leaders are due to attend what will be a
more intimate family affair.
(Additional reporting by David Dolan and Peroshni Govender; Writing by
Pascal Fletcher and Ed Cropley; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Kevin Liffey)
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