South Africans protesting U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the country rallied on Friday a few blocks from well-wishers at a hospital in Pretoria where anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela remains critically ill.
Obama, on a three-nation tour of Africa, was due to arrive in South Africa on Friday with White House officials, saying they will defer to Mandela’s family on whether the first African-American president of the United States will visit South Africa’s first black president.
Mandela, 94, is fighting a lung infection that has left him in a critical condition and in hospital for nearly three weeks.
His fourth time of being hospitalised in six months has focused attention in South Africa and globally on the faltering health of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who is admired as a symbol of resistance against injustice and of racial reconciliation.
President Jacob Zuma has said Mandela’s condition improved over Wednesday night but he remained critical.
About 200 trade unionists, student activists and South African Communist Party members gathered in the capital Pretoria to protest Obama’s visit this weekend, calling his foreign policy “arrogant, selfish and oppressive”.
“We had expectations of America’s first black president. Knowing Africa’s history, we expected more,” said Khomotso Makola, a 19-year-old law student.
“He has come as a disappointment, I think Mandela too would be disappointed and feel let down,” Makola said.
South African critics of Obama have focused in particular on his support for U.S. drone strikes overseas, which they say have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, and his failure to deliver on a pledge to close the U.S. military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba housing terrorism suspects.