Obama hails Mandela, expresses concern over strongman leaders

Former US president Barack Obama (pictured) gave his keynote speech honouring late South African leader Nelson Mandela on his 100th birthday by highlighting how politics has shifted from people and their aspirations to one of fear, resentment, and retrenchment.

Without naming any leader or country, Obama told a large gathering at Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday that the world is going through strange and uncertain times because of the failure of governments and powerful elites. Doing business has become more dangerous and brutal.

People stand at a crossroads as diametrically opposite ideologies clash over identifying and moulding them. Conflicts escalate over climate change, race-based migration policies, unbridled capitalism and strongman politics.

Leaders try to undermine every institution including free press that stands for democracy.

Obama said it is sad that 28 years after Mandela walked out of prison, people have to be still reminded that they are all equal irrespective of their race and gender.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was close to Mandela, said the late leader had inspired him to launch the fight against corruption. His predecessor Jacob Zuma was forced to step down in the wake of an impeachment move over corruption charges.

Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) party lost some of its sheen after Zuma initially refused to resign leading to an ugly showdown.

Graca Machel, Mandela’s widow, said South African youth must follow in his footsteps to achieve social and economic justice.

Mandela, who died in 2013, fought against white-minority apartheid rule. He came out of the jail in 1990 with a message of peace and reconciliation and led the ANC to victory in the first multi-race elections four years later.