The front page of today’s edition of The Argus, the afternoon daily newspaper in Cape Town, South Africa. No mention of President Obama. (Click image to enlarge.)
In a highly unusual turn of events, the President of the United States is arriving in a few hours in South Africa … and the South African press is saying very little about it.
The Mail & Guardian in Johannesburg, a morning daily, has nothing about the United States president on its front page. The Cape Argus, an afternoon daily in Cape Town, has just a small teaser to the story inside.
The front page of the Cape Times in Cape Town today has a feature story about how the prison at Robben Island, where fromer President Nelson Mandela spent more than two decades, is being secured once again for the U.S. president’s visit (it is now a museum).
President Barack Obama looks out a window as he and First Lady Michelle Obama tour the House of Slaves Museum on Gorée Island, Senegal, on Thursday. Photo by Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.
However, the national edition of The New York Times has a feature story on the bottom of the front page this morning about Obama’s visit to South Africa, focusing on the president’s relationship with the ailing Mandela.
According to the president’s official schedule available at the White House Briefing Room, the president and first lady arrive at Oliver Tambo International Airport at 8:10 p.m. South African time (10 a.m. PDT).
A press event is scheduled at Waterkloof Air Base.
The BBC World Service has just reported that Obama played down speculation he might visit Mandela in hospital.
On his flight from Senegal, the BBC reported, Obama told journalists he did not need a photo op with Mandela. (A gaggle of reporters always accompanies the president on Air Force one.)
This begins to explain why his visit is being overshadowed.
Early this morning I spoke with my sister in Johannesburg, who confirmed this strange occurrence.
“Mandala’s situation is overshadowing everything,” she said. “There is nothing in the newspapers about [Obama’s visit].”
The Cape Times newspaper in Cape Town has a feature about Robben Island on the front page today.
Normally, wherever the president goes and whatever he says, makes the front page. He is the most prominent person in the world, and his actions and words affect everyone.
That is what editors decide makes news.
It is a curious twist of historical drama that a visit by America’s first African-American president to the continent of his ancestry, is being overshadowed by an even bigger news event.
South Africans and the world are preoccupied with the final days of one of the giants of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela.
News obviously is never predictable. However news coverage can be equally as unpredictable.