As the world’s eyes turned on South Africa for the memorial of Nelson Mandela this afternoon, I took a look at some of the coverage around the world.
The New York Times (USA) website leads with ‘Crowds mass in S. Africa to bid farewell and honour Mandela’, and Obama, Bush and Hillary sharing a flight to South Africa together. It focuses on Obama joining the Africans in celebration, and highlights from his well-received speech. As of 8am ET, it doesn’t actually mention the Obama-Castro handshake that will dominate the UK papers tomorrow. The Telegraph’s foreign correspondent, Colin Freeman, notes that it is only the second time ever that a US president has shaken the hands of a Cuban Communist leader.
Similarly, the Washington Post featured an array of colourful images alongside key highlights from Obama’s speech, hailed by critics as his best in years and mirroring 2008 election rhetoric. But they also balanced out their coverage with a piece on how in life Mandela often irritated the US; great irony in light of Obama’s strong praise of the man and his work. Mandela commented in response to US disappointment at his visit to Libya, ‘How can they have the arrogance to dictate to us who our friends should be?’
The Australian’s headline is ‘sharing the joy and sadness’. They write about the crowds who converged on Soweto stadium, as the ‘world unites’, focusing on the joint celebration of the public and politicians. The empty seats in the bottom deck and the overflow stadium, however, are yet to be officially explained, and appear embarrassing for organisers.
The South China Morning Post report on Beijing’s ban on ‘sensitive topics’ during the broadcast, with propaganda authorities issuing orders for local and national media to ‘toe the line’.
Reuters lead with the simple headline ‘Farewell, Mandela’ including featured pre-recordings discussing Mandela’s successors. Again, they focus on the handshake, describing it as ‘a rare gesture between the leaders of the ideologically opposed nations that reflected the anti-apartheid hero’s spirit of reconciliation.’
The Times of India lead on the handshake, and note that the two countries have ‘recently taken small steps toward rapprochement, raising hopes the two nations could be on the verge of a breakthrough in relations.’
Haaretz (Israel) takes a look at the cost to Israel of missing the Mandela memorial, noting the anger and frustration of many South African Jews in their support of Israel. ‘“If the whole world is coming to South Africa’” – as foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said – and Israel is not among them, what message would its absence send? Would it be an admission that because of the apartheid label, Israeli leaders fear being embarrassed by expected protests from anti-Israel groups?’
Mail and the Guardian (Africa) focus on the ‘booing crowd’ stealing ‘Zuma’s shine and report as mourners flock to Soweto and Mandela’s hometown. They are clearly concerned about how the world will react to this; ‘This could send a wrong signal to international leaders who came to pay their last respects to Mandela, about how firmly in charge Zuma is of South Africa.’
Vanguard’s (Africa) memorial coverage notes the significance of his former jailers and fellow prisoners from Robben Island coming together at his memorial service to pay their respects, reflecting in death the hospitality and warmth Mandela offered to them in life.
The African Guardian discusses the security arrangements, which the South African establishment have been extremely reluctant to comment on. ‘South African officials won’t give details about their security plans — how many police officers, how many troops, precautions to keep the stadium weapons- and explosives-free.’
CNN is featuring a live Twitter stream of Mandela tributes today, videos of Obama’s Castro handshake and commemoration of the largest gathering of world leaders in recent years. Its splash on Obama’s description of Mandela as the ‘giant of history’ also highlights the people who ‘skipped work and queued for hours to secure a seat so that they could pay their respects at the stadium where Mandela delivered his first major speech after his release from prison.’
Al Jazeera emphasis the distinct lack of heads of state from the UK, commonwealth or EU speaking at the service. ‘The list of speakers displays South Africa’s political orientation away from the west.’