MICHELLE OBAMA and daughters Sasha and Malia have left their illustrious husband and father green with envy as they today posed for one of the most prized pictures in the world – one alongside Nelson Mandela.
The United States of America’s First Lady, along with her daughters and mother Marian Robinson, arrived in South Africa, at Pretoria’s Waterkloof Air Force Base on a chilly night, but to a typically warm South African welcome.
Mrs Obama arrived after the long trans-Atlantic trip smiling and looking very relaxed, with her daughters gladly accepting a gift of a blanket in the colours of the South African flag, which they immediately draped over their shoulders.
After spending their first night in South Africa, the Obamas had a full day in South Africa, meeting in Houghton, Johannesburg, with the revered former South African President and his wife, Graca Machel, and then visiting one of South Africa’s most popular historical tourist attractions, the Apartheid Museum.
The 92-year-old Mr Mandela met President Barack Obama in 2006 when he was still an Illinois Senator and Mrs Obama told dignitaries she met that the United States President was “pouty” that he was not able to accompany his family on their trip to South Africa.
“The Obamas visit is to show just how important South Africa is to the United States, to recognise the work South Africa has done over the years and to engage with the Africa of the future. The Obamas had a wonderful, very exciting arrival and are thrilled and over the moon to be in South Africa,” United States Embassy spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeaux told local media after the Obamas’ arrival.
“We want to thank the South African Government for the way they have welcomed the Obama family. You guys showed during the FIFA World Cup that you know how to host the world and the welcome for the Obama family has been extraordinary,” Ms Trudeaux added, saying the visit would focus on women, gender and education issues.
Mrs Obama and her family’s visit also included a “very important symbolic visit” to the historic Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, a meeting of young African female leaders and will also included a visit to the famous Robben Island prison, where Nelson Mandela spent many years in incarceration as a political prisoner, as well as an event at the Cape Town Stadium used for the FIFA World Cup.
The US First Lady’s first visit to South Africa coincided with that of talk show queen Oprah Winfrey, who received an honorary doctorate from the Free State University on 23 June 2011. The high-profile visits of two of the world’s most famous and recognisable women will further promote relations between United States and South Africa, with United States citizens having been the second-highest tourist visitors to South Africa in 2010. A total of 282 377 United States residents visited South Africa in 2010,up 22 percent on the 2009 tourist arrival numbers.
“We welcomed the Obama family to South Africa and are certain they had a great time here during their visit. The First Lady and her family had a very busy schedule and their itinerary took them across the country, from Johannesburg to Cape Town, during which they got to experience the beauty of South Africa and also some of the country’s most important historical and cultural sites. They also got the opportunity to meet and make friends with a number of South Africans and will soon learn what hundreds of thousands of their fellow Americans know…that South Africans are among the most friendly people on earth,” said South African Tourism CEO Ms Thandiwe January-Mclean.