Entries in South Africa (78)


Obama Visits Mandela’s Robben Island Cell

iStockphoto(CAPE TOWN, South Africa) -- On Sunday, with the world’s eyes on the ailing Nelson Mandela, President Obama walked in the footsteps of the man he’s called his personal hero.

Touring the prison on Robben Island, Obama stood alone in the stark “7B” cell where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years in captivity and stared out at the blue sky through the barred window.
Obama visited the island before, in 2006 when he was a senator, but Sunday he returned for the first time as president and brought along his family.

“For me to be able to bring my daughters there and teach them the history of that place and this country, and help them to understand not only how those lessons apply to their own lives but also to their responsibilities in the future as citizens of the world, that’s a great privilege and a great honor,” Obama said Saturday.

The first family viewed the quarry where Mandela and his fellow prisoners were forced to do grueling labor, endlessly breaking large stones into smaller ones, and the courtyard provided for their recreation. They walked through the tiny, barren cells, which were barely wide enough for the prisoners to lie down.
The president, first lady, daughters Sasha and Malia, first grandmother Marian Robinson and the president’s niece Leslie Robinson were guided through the prison by a former inmate. Like Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada was imprisoned for 18 years for his anti-apartheid activities.

The president was overheard chiming in with his own history lessons.

“One thing you guys might not be aware of is that the idea of political nonviolence first took root here in South Africa because Mahatma Gandhi was a lawyer here in South Africa. Here is where he did his first political [activism]. When he went back to India the principles ultimately led to Indian independence, and what Gandhi did inspired Martin Luther King,” he told his family.

Before departing, the president and first lady signed the visitor log.

“On behalf of our family we’re deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit,” the president wrote.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Compares Nelson Mandela to George Washington

WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Image(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Although President Obama will not get a chance to see Nelson Mandela on his trip to South Africa, he is using his historic visit to pay tribute to the man he calls a hero to the world and will meet with the Mandela family.

At a joint press conference with South African President Jacob Zuma Saturday morning, President Obama spoke extensively about Mandela's legacy.

"Our thoughts and those of Americans and people all around the world are with Nelson Mandela and his family and all of South Africans," Obama said. "The struggle here for freedom, Madiba's moral courage, this country's historic transition to a free nation has been a personal inspiration to me, an inspiration to the world, and it continues to be."

Obama's two-day visit to South Africa -- and his entire week-long visit to the continent -- has been dominated by the Mandela vigil, giving Obama to speak about what Mandela means to Africa and the rest of the world.

"The outpouring of love that we've seen in recent days shows that the triumph of Mandela and this nation speaks to something very deep in the human spirit," Obama said. "That's what Mandela represents, that's what South Africa can represent to the world and what brought me back here."
Later, when asked about his policy toward Africa, Obama again returned to Mandela.

"Mandela shows what was possible when a priority is placed on human dignity, respect for law, that all people are treated equally," Obama said.

"And what Nelson Mandela also stood for is that the well-being of the country is more important than the interests of any one person," Obama continued. "George Washington is admired because after two terms he said enough, I'm going back to being a citizen. There were no term limits, but he said I'm a citizen. I served my time. And it's time for the next person, because that's what democracy is about. And Mandela similarly was able to recognize that, despite how revered he was, that part of this transition process was greater than one person."

At the joint press conference, President Zuma offered an update on Mandela's health -- saying there has been no change in his health but that he hopes he will be able to leave the hospital soon.

"The position of former president Mandela, he remains critical but stable," Zuma said. "Nothing has changed so far. We are hoping that he is going to improve. With all the prayers and good wishes that have been made, everyone is wishing Mandela well. The doctors who are tending to him are doing everything -- these are excellent doctors. We hope that very soon, he will be out of hospital."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Nelson Mandela Spends Second Night in Hospital

Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, spent a second night in the hospital battling a lung infection on Saturday.

On Saturday, South Africa officials said Mandela was in "serious but stable condition" with his family by his side.

As of Sunday morning, officials have not released any updates on Mandela's condition.

The 94-year-old Nobel Peace prize winner's "condition deteriorated and he was transferred to a Pretoria hospital," early Saturday morning, according to a statement from the office of South African President Jacob Zuma.

"The former President is receiving expert medical care and doctors are doing everything possible to make him better and comfortable," the statement said. "President Jacob Zuma, on behalf of government and the nation, wishes Madiba [Mandela's clan nickname] a speedy recovery and requests the media and the public to respect the privacy of Madiba and his family."

In April, Mandela spent 18 days in the hospital due to a lung infection and was treated for gall stones in December 2012.

Families throughout South Africa prayed for Mandela's recovery as they attended church services on Sunday.

Mandela served as the first black president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

In 1993, he received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in ending apartheid through non-violent means.

Mandela had been ill for some days before being taken to a Pretoria hospital early Saturday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Nelson Mandela Hospitalized with Lung Infection

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, is in "serious but stable condition" after contracting a lung infection, South Africa officials said.

The 94-year-old Nobel Peace prize winner's "condition deteriorated and he was transferred to a Pretoria hospital," early Saturday morning according to statement from the office of South African President Jacob Zuma.

"The former President is receiving expert medical care and doctors are doing everything possible to make him better and comfortable," the statement said. "President Jacob Zuma, on behalf of government and the nation, wishes Madiba a speedy recovery and requests the media and the public to respect the privacy of Madiba and his family," Zuma said, referring to Mandela by his clan name.

Mandela spent 18 days in April in the hospital due to a lung infection and was treated for gall stones in December 2012.

Mandela served as the first black president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

In 1993, he received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in ending apartheid through non-violent means.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mandela Discharged from Hospital

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images(JOHANNESBURG) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela was discharged from the hospital on Saturday following a sustained and gradual improvement in his condition, according to a release from President Jacob Zuma.

Mandela was in the hospital for ten days while being treated for pneumonia. Mandela has a history of lung problems, and this was his third health scare in four months.

He has returned to his house, where he will now receive home based high care.

In a statement, Zuma thanked the hard working medical team and hospital staff for looking after Mandela so efficiently.

Zuma also extended his gratitude to all those who gave their support.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Nelson Mandela Breathing Without Difficulty

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images(JOHANNESBURG) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela is now able to "breathe without difficulty" while receiving treatment for a recurring lung infection, a spokesman for South Africa's president said Saturday.

Mandela was admitted to the hospital late Wednesday night because of his recurring pneumonia, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

"Doctors advise that due to the lung infection, former President Mandela has developed a pleural effusion which was tapped," the statement said. "This has resulted in him being now able to breathe without difficulty. He continues to respond to treatment and is comfortable."

Mandela, 94, spent 18 days in the hospital in December for a lung infection and gallstones. He was also treated for a stomach condition in February.

"The Presidency wishes to acknowledge and thank all who have been praying for and sending messages of support to Madiba and his family," the statement said, using Mandela's clan name.

Despite rare public appearances, Mandela, who is credited with changing race relations in South Africa, remains hugely popular in the country.

After enduring nearly three decades of prison, much of it at hard labor in a lime quarry, Mandela emerged as a gentle leader who was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in ending apartheid, and later became a global statesman who inspired millions of people around the world.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Oscar Pistorius' Brother Facing Culpable Homicide Charge

Nelius Rademan/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- The attorney for Oscar Pistorius' family said on Sunday that the Olympian's brother is facing a culpable homicide charge relating to a 2008 road accident in which a motorcyclist was killed.

Carl Pistorius, who sat behind his younger brother, Oscar, every day at his bail hearing, will now face his own homicide trial for the accident five years ago, which his attorney, Kenny Oldwage, said he "deeply regrets."

Carl is charged with culpable homicide, which refers to the unlawful negligent killing of another person.  The charges were initially dropped, but were later reinstated, Oldwage said in a statement.

Carl quietly appeared in court last Thursday, one day before his Paralympic gold-medalist brother was released on bail, Oldwage said.  His next appearance is scheduled for the end of March.

It was the latest twist in a case that has drawn international attention, after Oscar, 26, a double amputee who ran in both the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, was charged with the premeditated murder of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

After a four-day long bail hearing, Oscar was granted bail last Friday by a South African magistrate.  The court set bail at about $113,000 ($1 million rand) and June 4 as the date for his next court appearance.

Oscar is believed to be staying at his uncle's house as he awaits trial.  As part of his bail conditions, Oscar must give up all his guns, he cannot drink alcohol or return to the home where the shooting occurred, and he must check in with a police department twice a week.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Oscar Pistorius to Be Released on Bail

Herman Verwey/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Oscar Pistorius, the Olympian accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day, will be released on bail, a South African magistrate ruled on Friday.

In reading his lengthy decision, Magistrate Desmond Nair said, "The issue before me is whether the accused, being who is and the assets he has [here], would seek to duck and dive all over the world."

He concluded, "I cannot find that he is a flight risk."

The court set bail at about $113,000 ($1 million rand) and June 4 as the date for Pistorius' next court appearance.

The other bail conditions are: Pistorius cannot leave the country; he must hand over his passports; he cannot return to his home as long as it's an active crime scene; he needs permission to leave the Pretoria area; he must visit a police station on a daily basis and be available to a probation officer at all times via cellphone; he is not allowed any communication with prosecution witnesses; he cannot drink alcohol; and he must relinquish his firearms.

"Do you understand?" Nair asked the 26-year-old athlete.

"Yes, sir," Pistorius replied.

Speaking for the family, Pistorius' uncle, Arnold, said: "Although we are obviously relieved that Oscar has been granted bail, this is still a very sad time for the family of Reeva and for us.  We are grateful that the Magistrate recognized the validity and strength of our application.  As the family, we are convinced that Oscar's version of what happened on that terrible night will prove to be true."

The fourth and final day of Pistorius' bail hearing opened with arguments from the prosecution that the runner's version of events is improbable and the defense countering that Pistorius had no intent to kill Steenkamp.

Pistorius, who gained global acclaim for racing at the 2012 London Olympics, shot his model girlfriend through a closed bathroom.  He says he killed Steenkamp accidentally, but prosecutors allege that he took a moment to put on his prosthetic legs, indicating that he thought out and planned to kill Steenkamp when he shot her three times through a bathroom door.

Pistorius sobbed Friday in court.  Barry Roux, his defense attorney, said the prosecution has misinterpreted the assigning of intent -- meaning that the runner's intent to shoot at a supposed intruder in his home cannot be transferred to someone else who was shot -- in this case, Steenkamp.

"He did not want to kill Reeva," Roux told the court.

When Nair, who has been overhearing the bail hearing, asked Roux what the charges should be if Pistorius intended to kill an intruder, the defense attorney responded that he should be charged with culpable homicide.  Culpable homicide is defined in South Africa as "the unlawful negligent killing of a human being."

Roux also made light of the prosecution's argument that Pistorius is a flight risk, saying that every time the double-amputee goes through airport security, it causes a commotion.  He said that Pistorius' legs need constant maintenance and he needs medical attention for his stumps.

The prosecution argued on Friday that the onus is on Pistorius to provide his version of events, and his version is improbable.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel also spoke of Pistorius' fame and his disability, even relating him to Wikipedia founder Julian Assange, who is now confined to Ecuador's London Embassy, where he has been granted political asylum.

"[Assange's] facial features are as well known as Mr. Pistorius' prostheses," Nel said.

Nel argued that Pistorius' prostheses do not set him apart, stating that it's no different to any other feature, and the court cannot be seen to treat people with disabilities accused of a crime, or famous people accused of a crime, any differently.

Pistorius has said that in the early hours of Feb. 14, he was closing his balcony doors when he heard a noise from the bathroom.  Fearing an intruder, and without his prosthetic legs on, he grabbed a gun from under his bed and fired through the closed bathroom door, he told the court.

But prosecutors say that's implausible, that the gun's holster was found under the side of the bed where Steenkamp slept, and that Pistorius would have seen she wasn't there.  Prosecutors also say the angle at which the shots were fired shows Pistorius was already wearing his prosthetics when he fired.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Friends Believe Oscar Pistorius, Reeva Steenkamp Were Happy

Waldo Swiegers/Heat Magazine/Gallo Images/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Friends of model Reeva Steenkamp describe her relationship with Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius as seemingly healthy and normal, and they say that's why it's so hard for them to make sense of her Valentine's Day gun death at Pistorius' hands.

"We just want to believe that justice will be served," said Gina Myers, Steenkamp's friend and roommate.  "And we trust it.  We trust and we have faith in the fact the truth will come out."

Pistorius, a double amputee known as the "Blade Runner" because of the carbon fiber prosthetics he runs on, has admitted shooting Steenkamp repeatedly through a bathroom door during the early morning hours of Feb. 14.  He reportedly has told investigators he thought Steenkamp was an intruder in his home.  Prosecutors have charged him with premeditated murder.

Regardless of the circumstances of Steenkamp's death, she is gone -- and Myers told ABC News she hasn't been able to change a thing in her friend's room at the house they shared with Myers' parents.

"Even when we were in rooms next door to each other," Myers said, growing emotional, "she'd still send me messages saying ...'Goodnight my G, I love you.'"

"She was just always happy and smiling and always just, and the most ... amazing outlook on life," she added, pausing as her eyes watered up.  "There was not one day ever that she complained about anything.  It doesn't matter what's going on inside of her head and heart, she was always just happy."

Myers noted Steenkamp planned to give a talk to high school girls about abusive relationships the day she died because "she had been in an abusive relationship that she had experienced."

"I think it was just like Reeva to want to help people," she said.

"This was something that she could try and voice because she had experienced it," she said, putting her hand to her chest.  "Whatever it is.  And it was something she believed in."

However, Myers did not see anything amiss in Steenkamp's relationship with Pistorius.

"As far as I knew, she was happy," Myers said.  "There are problems in every relationship.  It happens to everybody.  Anything else we're not aware of.  We don't really talk about it."

Sitting next to Myers, Daren Fresco, who said he was a close friend of Steenkamp's, seemed to echo Myers' thoughts on the Pistorius-Steenkamp relationship.

"Every relationship has its ups and downs," he said.  "You find me one that doesn't and I'll tell you it's not a proper relationship."

"What's done is done," he said of the shooting and the legal process playing out in its wake.  "It can never be undone.  Now we just wait."

Kevin Lerena, who described himself as a friend of both Pistorius and Steenkamp, painted their relationship in more glowing terms.

"If Oscar was to ask her to get married she would have said yes," he said.  "That's how happy and joyful their relationship was.  That's why, to us, it's such a shock.  Because after what's happened, it's really a freak or tragic accident."

Lerena said he thought Pistorius did not have a particularly bad temper.

"No, not at all," he said.  "We're all guys.  We've all got testosterone and there's certain people that aggravate you -- certain guys that aggravate and irritate you that you do lose your temper with.  But Oscar on a whole?  No, not at all.  He has a very...humble person -- very himself."

He, too, is torn apart by Steenkamp's death at Pistorius' hands.

"It's very hard because we've got a friend who's hurting for what's happened and we've got a friend that's passed on," he said.  "So our group of friends, and not just our group of friends but the whole community of South Africa is hurting, you know?  Nobody knows what happened, what transpired.  That's where there's this whole huge investigation.  At the end of the day, a lady has died and that's the hard part.  An innocent girl has passed on.  It's heartbreaking, you know?"

"It's still hard to realize," he said.  "It was just two weeks ago I was speaking to both of them, and now one is gone and one's in a whole lot of trouble."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Lead Detective in Oscar Pistorius Murder Probe Under Scrutiny

Liza van Deventer/Foto24/Gallo Images/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- The Oscar Pistorius murder probe has suddenly focused on Hilton Botha, the prosecution’s lead police detective.

While a judge in Pretoria, South Africa, still hasn’t determined whether Pistorius, a Paralympic champion, should be granted bail while awaiting trial for last week’s shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, Botha is now under scrutiny because of seven counts of attempted murder against him.

Botha and a group of police officers were accused of drunkenly opening fire on a minibus carrying seven passengers in 2011.  While charges were filed but never carried through, the director of public prosecutions decided on Wednesday to push ahead with the charges against Botha and two cops.

This announcement came as Botha's testimony was pulled apart by Pistorius' defense attorney in court Wednesday during a bail hearing related to the Valentine’s Day shooting of Steenkamp that the prosecution maintains was premeditated murder.

Botha testified that a witness heard shouts from the Pistorius’ home but it was later ascertained that the witness lived 600 meters away.  Meanwhile, Botha also admitted that he had never bothered to check whether Pistorius had called an ambulance, which records showed he did.

Doubts were also raised about the prosecution’s contention that steroids and testosterone were found at the runner’s home.

Pistorius, who could get life in prison if convicted of murder, became the first double amputee to compete in the Summer Olympic Games when he was fitted with racing blades and ran for South Africa in London last year.

Pistorius also competed in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London and won gold medals in the 4-by-100 meter relay and the 400-meter individual event.

On Thursday, two of his sponsors -- Nike and Thierry Mugler -- dropped him.

"Nike has suspended its contract with Oscar Pistorius.  We believe Oscar Pistorius should be afforded due process and we will continue to monitor the situation closely," Nike said in a statement.

Thierry Mugler said it decided to remove all ads featuring Pistorius "out of respect and sympathy" to his family.

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