Michelle Obama pays visit to Mandela

22 June 2011

United States First Lady Michelle Obama visited the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Johannesburg on Tuesday on the first leg of her trip to South Africa and Botswana.

Accompanied by her mother Marian Robinson, her daughters Malia and Sasha, her niece Leslie and her nephew Avery, Mrs Obama met members of Mandela’s family and his wife, Graça Machel.

Sello Hatang and Sahm Venter, the co-editors of the soon to be released book Nelson Mandela By Himself: The Authorised Quotations Book, presented Mrs Obama with an advance copy.

Hatang and the head of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Verne Harris, showed the First Lady a display of archival items housed in the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, including prison desk calendars, notebooks and draft letters. She was introduced to the senior archivist, Razia Saleh.

Mrs Obama expressed appreciation for the display saying, “You are doing very important work.”

She then proceeded to Mandela’s house, where she paid him a courtesy call.

Earlier in the day, the US First Lady visited President Jacob Zuma’s second wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli Zuma, at the President’s official residence in Pretoria.

Packed schedule

Following her visit to Mandela, she was due to make a stop at Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum, which chronicles the history of the fight against white minority rule.

Mrs Obama has a packed schedule that includes a trip to the memorial for Hector Pieterson in Soweto on Wednesday.

She will also give a keynote address at a conference of the Young African Women Leaders Forum, a two-day meeting of 75 women aged 16 to 30 who are playing leadership roles across the continent.

She will then jet off to Cape Town on Thursday, where she will meet with Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu before leaving for Botswana on Saturday.

The White House says the First Lady’s visit will advance her husband’s foreign policy goals.

The trip is a continuation of Michelle Obama’s work in engaging young people, especially girls and young women, at home and abroad.

“This visit to two critical countries will underscore that the United States has an important stake in the success of Africa’s many nations and underscore the historic connections between the American people and those who live on the African continent,” the US embassy in South Africa said in a statement last week.

“South Africa is a vital global partner for the United States, as political leader and economic engine on the continent, and a historic example of democratic transition in Africa and around the world.”

SAinfo reporter and Nelson Mandela Foundation