Michelle Obama meets Nelson Mandela and dances up a storm – but only after she’s snubbed by the polygamous President of South AfricaSouth African President Jacob Zuma has refused to meet Michelle Obama during her five-day tour of Africa saying that he is too busy. The polygamist leader snubbed the First Lady by sending his prisons minister to greet her at the airport and one of his three wives to meet her today. The brush off came as Mrs Obama granted a rare audience with Nelson Mandela on the opening day of her visit to Africa – her first major solo tour without her husband.
She wore a bold black-and-orange printed top by Nigerian-born, London-based designer Duro Olowu for her arrival, with black trousers and bright blue patent ballerina flats.
Both her daughters, who were draped in South African flags as they stepped off the plane, echoed her look with bright patent ballet flats of their own.
Corrective Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula met Mrs Obama on her arrival in Pretoria on Monday, and one of his three wives, Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, met her for about half an hour this morning. Mrs Ntuli-Zuma is one of the President’s three wives. There were two further wives who are no longer with him. He divorced Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in 1998. Kate Mantsho Zuma killed herself in 2000, after describing her marriage to him as ’24 years of hell’. Mr Zuma is said to have more than ten children, and possibly as many as 19. The White House said in a brief statement after the meeting that the two women talked about Mrs Obama’s trip and her schedule in South Africa. The supposed snub comes as relations are tense between SouthAfrica and the U.S.
Mrs Obama wore a silk shantung coral suit by Narcisso Rodriguez with turquoise earrings by Nava Zahavi.
The party had been viewing Mandela’s personal items including prison desk calendars and notebooks when they were invited to come to his home.
It was Mrs Obama’s first meeting with the prisoner-turned-president.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his role in the anti-apartheid movement. After his release, he went on to become the country’s first black elected president.
Mandela, who stepped down in 1999 after serving one term as president, is rarely seen in public anymore. At age 92, he is in fragile health and was briefly hospitalised in January with anacute respiratory infection. But he apparently felt well enough Tuesday to invite the Obama family to visit.
Mrs Obama’s niece and nephew, who are traveling with her, were also invited to meet Mr Mandela.
Before the visit the White House had only announced a meeting with Graca Machel, wife of the former South African president. It is thought that aides were waiting to see if the frail anti-apartheid leader was well enough to see them. Mrs Obama is traveling without President Barack Obama, who met Mandela on a previous visit to Africa when he was a U.S. senator.
Mr Obama and Mr Mandela have spoken by telephone several times since Mr Obama took office, most recently last June, the White House said.
Mr Obama also wrote a foreword for Mandela’s book, ‘Conversations with Myself’.
Mrs Obama will visit Nobel Peace Prizewinner Desmond Tutu in Cape Town before heading to Botswana where the family will go on safari.
THE FIRST LADY’S TOUR
June 21: Meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma’s wife Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma in Pretoria and visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg
June 22: Mrs. Obama will deliver the keynote address to a Young African Women Leaders Forum in Soweto
June 23: Meeting with U.S. consulate employees in Cape Town, before a visit to Robben Island, where former president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. She will end the day with a speech to young people attending a workshop at the University of Cape Town
June 24: Meeting with Botswana President Ian Khama and visit to the Botswana Children’s Clinic Center of Excellence Teen Club.
June 25: Meeting with U.S. Embassy employees in Botswanan capital Gaborone before the family go on safari