Obamas to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa

A mourner sings next to a poster former South African President Nelson Mandela outside his residence in Johannesburg December 6, 2013.   Credit: Reuters
A mourner sings next to a poster former South African President Nelson Mandela outside his residence in Johannesburg on Dec. 6.
Credit: Reuters

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will travel to South Africa next week to participate in memorial events for Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who died on Thursday.

“President Obama and the first lady will go to South Africa next week to pay their respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela and to participate in memorial events,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

South Africans united in mourning for Mandela on Friday, but while some celebrated his remarkable life with dance and song, others fretted that the anti-apartheid hero’s death would make the nation vulnerable again to racial and social tensions.

President Jacob Zuma said Mandela would be buried on Dec. 15 at his ancestral home in the Eastern Cape.

South Africans heard from Zuma late on Thursday that their first black president, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had died peacefully at his Johannesburg home in the company of his family after a long illness.

On Friday, the country’s 52 million people absorbed the news that the statesman, a global symbol of reconciliation and peaceful co-existence, had departed.

Zuma also announced Mandela would be honored at a Dec. 10 memorial service at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium, the site of the 2010 World Cup final.

“We will spend the week mourning his passing. We will also spend it celebrating a life well lived,” Zuma said.

He added that Mandela would be laid to rest at his ancestral village of Qunu, 450 miles south of Johannesburg, in a plot where three of his children and other close family members are buried.

Despite assurances from public figures that Mandela’s death at 95, while sorrowful, would not halt South Africa’s advance from its apartheid past, there were those who expressed unease about the absence of a man famed as a peacemaker.

“It’s not going to be good, hey! I think it’s going to become a more racist country. People will turn on each other and chase foreigners away,” said Sharon Qubeka, 28, a secretary from Tembisa township. “Mandela was the only one who kept things together.”

Flags flew at half staff across the country, and trade was halted for five minutes on the Johannesburg stock exchange.

But the mood was not all somber. Hundreds filled the streets around Mandela’s home in the upmarket Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, many singing songs of tribute and dancing.

The crowd included toddlers carrying flowers, domestic workers still in uniform and businessmen in suits.

Another veteran anti-apartheid campaigner, former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu, said that like all South Africans he was “devastated” by Mandela’s death.

“Let us give him the gift of a South Africa united, one,” Tutu said, holding a mass in Cape Town’s St. George’s Cathedral.

Tributes continued to pour in for Mandela, who had been suffering for nearly a year from a recurring lung illness dating back to the 27 years he spent in apartheid jails, including the Robben Island penal colony.

Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron were among those who praised him.

The flags of the 193 United Nations member states along First Avenue in New York City were lowered at 10 a.m. in honor of Mandela. The U.N. General Assembly observed a minute of silence.

The loss was also keenly felt across the African continent. “We are in trouble now, Africa. No one will fit Mandela’s shoes,” said Kenyan teacher Catherine Ochieng, 32.

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, an old ally of Mandela’s in the fight against apartheid, hailed him as “a great freedom fighter.”

Politicians now ‘nothing like Mandela’

For South Africa, the death of its most loved leader comes at a time when the nation, which basked in global goodwill after apartheid ended, has been experiencing labor unrest, growing protests against poor services, poverty, crime, and unemployment and corruption scandals tainting Zuma’s rule.

Many saw today’s South Africa — the continent’s biggest economy but also one of the world’s most unequal — as still distant from the “Rainbow Nation” ideal of social peace and shared prosperity that Mandela had proclaimed on his triumphant release from prison in 1990.

“I feel like I lost my father, someone who would look out for me,” said Joseph Nkosi, 36, a security guard.

Referring to Mandela by his clan name, he added: “Now without Madiba I feel like I don’t have a chance. The rich will get richer and simply forget about us. The poor don’t matter to them. Look at our politicians, they are nothing like Madiba.”

The crowd around Mandela’s home in Houghton preferred to celebrate his achievement in bringing South Africans together.

For 16-year-old Michael Lowry, who has no memory of the apartheid system that ended in 1994, Mandela’s legacy means he can have non-white friends.

“I hear stories that my parents tell me and I’m just shocked that such a country could exist. I couldn’t imagine just going to school with just white friends,” Lowry said.

Shortly after the news of Mandela’s death, Tutu had tried to calm fears that the absence of the man who steered South Africa to democracy might revive some of the ghosts of apartheid.

“To suggest that South Africa might go up in flames – as some have predicted – is to discredit South Africans and Madiba’s legacy,” Tutu said in a statement on Thursday. “The sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day and the next. … It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.