Obamas to travel to SA for Madiba memorial

Phillip De Wet

The White House says US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to South Africa next week to pay respects to Nelson Mandela.

US president Barack Obama. (Reuters)

White House press secretary Jay Carney says the Obamas will travel to South Africa next week to pay respects to Nelson Mandela, but didn't say specifically what day they planned to be in South Africa.

The South African government announced that Mandela would be honoured with a state burial on December 15.

"We'll have further updates on timing and logistics as they become available," Carney said on Friday..

Obama was among the many world leaders who expressed condolences in moving fashion shortly after Mandela's death was announced.

Several hundred high-profile foreign dignitaries, among them many heads of state, are expected to travel to Pretoria and perhaps the Eastern Cape to mark Mandela’s passing. Their attendance is expected to complicate logistical planning, which will be stretched by the very large turnout of mourners anticipated to flock to major events. None will complicate matters more so than Obama, who travels wrapped in multiple layers of security.

Carney said the Obamas would participate in memorial events as the "pay their respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela".

Meanwhile, former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton remembered Nelson Mandela as a "giant among us" who showed the world how to respond to injustice and tragedy.

Former president Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton were close friends of the anti-apartheid leader who led South Africa in the 1990s.

Hillary Clinton said Mandela understood the importance of bringing democracy and freedom to South Africa and showed others how to live a life of integrity. Clinton spoke on Friday in Washington.

Bill Clinton tweeted a photograph of himself holding the hand of a smiling Mandela, accompanied by the line: "I will never forget my friend Madiba". – Additional reporting by Sapa

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