It is a pity that Nelson Mandela’s illness has stopped America’s first black President from meeting the first black President of South Africa, not least because such a meeting would have brought home the great transformation that has occurred in both countries.
While everyone remembers South Africa for the apartheid system, we often forget that a form of apartheid was once just as entrenched in the Deep South of the United States.
The American civil rights movement began challenging segregation in the 1950s, long before change came to South Africa. At the same time, Mr Mandela’s election as President, and his wisdom in office, helped create a new image of black statesmanship, which has resonated far beyond the African continent. In that sense, President Mandela paved the way for President Obama. No wonder he calls him his hero.