US President Barrack Obama arrives in Tanzania from South Africa today on the last leg of his three nation whistle stop visit to Africa. At the University of Cape Town UCT yesterday, Obama told an excited crowd of students he entered politics at 19 when he heard about the trouble blacks were facing in apartheid South Africa. Twenty seven years later (same number of years Mandela spent in prison) he was voted America’s first black president.
“You Showed how a prisoner can be a president” Obama told the students who applauded each time they had to do so.
Not everyone welcomed him with open arms though. There were protests in Johannesburg which the police quickly broke up. The protesters are not impressed with what Obama has done for Africa, the continent of his forbears.
Barrack Obama is no longer the “Saviour” Africa thought he will be following his 2008 historic elections as US president.
It is much easier to outline what he has not done for Africa than what he has done so far. However, his visit to the country with the strongest economy in Africa was largely overshadowed by the illness and absence of one man, Nelson Mandela.
The contrast between Nelson Mandela and Barrack Obama couldn’t have been more different.
Nelson Mandela is an old man and lying on a sick bed practically unable to meet visitors, Obama is young, energetic and is still the “can do” president of the only remaining super power;
Nelson Mandela stepped down as South African president in 1999 and has only a modest 568 thousand followers on twitter, Barrack Obama is presently president of the US and has a stratospheric 33 Million twitter followers.
Nelson Mandela was a prisoner for 27 long years. The only prisons Barrack Obama has been to, he visited as a politician and not an inmate. Yesterday he visited Robben Island where Mandela spent most of his 27 years in prison
Nelson Mandela has married three wives and has six children, Barrack Obama has only married one woman and has two children
There the major differences end.
Both men have a lot in common
They were both the first black presidents of their respective countries. After 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela came out and was elected first Black South African president in 1994. He could have easily won a second term but decided not to as a lesson to show “sit-tight” African presidents there is life after the presidency. Barrack Obama fulfilled civil rights preacher Martin Lurther King’s “dream” and became the first black president of the USA following hi stunning 2008 elctions. He was easily re-elected for his second nd last term in 2012.
Both men have inspired millions of people around the world, Nelson Mandela for his tenacity in standing up to the South African apartheid bullies and refusing to bulge until he got what he wanted, a free vote and majority rule in South Africa. Barrack Obama for refusing that a mixed race kid (whom America for whatever reasons decide to describes “black” and not “white”) could aspire to the highest office in America. An exceptional orator, he simply talked his way into the presidency.
Both have black, African fathers.
It was not surprising then that on what might be his last ever visit to Africa as president, Barrack Obama had to visit South Africa in his three nation stop over. Because of the illness of 94 year old Mandela, President Obama missed what should have been an excellent photo shoot with the South African icon. That opportunity will never happen again so the two most remarkable presidents Africa has produced will never shake hands and give us a chance to watch them up close and personal-and those iconic pictures.