Obama and Castro shake hands, Zuma humiliated at Mandela memorial

Tue Dec 10, 2013 4:36pm EST
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By Stella Mapenzauswa and Steve Holland

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 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 giant 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 White House played down the move, saying it was a routine pleasantry, not a sign of a policy change.

"Nothing was planned in terms of the president's role other than his remarks," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters travelling with Obama. "He really didn't do more than exchange greetings with those leaders on his way to speak, it wasn't a substantive discussion."   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro (C) in this still image taken from video courtesy of the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) at the First National Bank (FNB) Stadium, also known as Soccer City, during former South African President Nelson Mandela's national memorial service in Johannesburg December 10, 2013. Obama shook the hand of Castro at a memorial to Mandela on Tuesday, an unprecedented gesture between the leaders of two nations which have been at loggerheads for more than half a century. REUTERS/SABC via Reuters TV