News / Africa

Soweto Students Look Forward to Obama Visit

President Obama in White House video Jun 22, 2013
President Obama in White House video Jun 22, 2013
Anita Powell
The University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus is expected to be one of the stops for U.S. President Barack Obama when he visits South Africa.  This campus, which caters to the black community of Soweto, is part of one of South Africa’s largest and most diverse universities. 

The signs on the UJ Soweto campus show a welcome message in four languages, a symbol of how this university has evolved along with post-apartheid South Africa.

It’s the same message that many UJ Soweto students say they want to relay to the U.S. president during his visit to the country.

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VOA spoke to dozens of students on this campus in the sprawling black community.  Many students say they hoped the president would speak about the problems of youth.  South Africa’s unemployment rate, for example, is more than 26 percent.

Many, like student Anathi Manciya, 19, offered high praise for the U.S. president.

“I think he’s a great leader.  I compare him to guys like Nelson Mandela.  Yeah.  I really like the dude," admitted Manciya. "Humble, kind - yeah, I like the dude.”

Some, like human resources major Yanelisa Mlondleni, 22, were less restrained.

“I think Barack Obama - I love him, I can say.  As he is the first black American to be a president," Mlondleni said. "He influences us.  He inspires us, giving us motivations and stuff.  And he made history by repeating his position again.  I love him so much, that’s all I can say.”

But not all the students were so effusive.  A small group of politics students said they were largely disappointed in Obama’s performance.

Political science major Kwanda Nkwanyana said he didn’t think Obama had kept his promises on issues such as the proposed closure of the U.S.-run detainee center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that he had not intervened enough to stop the conflict in Syria.

He said he had very few expectations for Obama's first visit to South Africa as U.S. president.

“Nothing.  This is the first time he’s come to visit.  And when did he get elected into presidency?  It was like 2008.  And this is the first time," scoffed Nkwanyana. "And now everyone is just going to praise him because he’s done something big, but he hasn’t.  See, the thing is people fail to realize that just because you’re black, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna have Africa’s interests, like, embedded in your heart or something.  He’s American, he’s not black.  There’s no such thing as a black country where people just give you stuff because you’re black.  We have to have something for America, and if we don’t, then obviously they’re not going to have anything for us.”

And still others said they were not politically minded.  But three members of the UJ Soweto choir asked if they could send their own, apolitical, message to the president.  South Africa’s multilingual national anthem bears a simple message: God Bless Africa.

Obama is expected to speak on this campus.  It’s a fitting choice: The university, one of the nation’s largest, is today a reflection of modern South Africa, with a primarily black student body.

The main curriculum is taught in English but university events, like graduations, are often hosted in English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Sesotho -- often with the academic speaker transitioning seamlessly from one language to another in the same, continuous speech.

Students said they don’t expect those linguistic gymnastics from the American president. But they hope he will bring something that translates into every language: hope.

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Comment Sorting
by: Mark
June 25, 2013 7:49 AM
They are looking forward to his visit, Obama and family should move to Johannesburg so America can be Free once again. Oh that's right VOA is for everything Obama does

by: Tim from: Johannesburg
June 25, 2013 2:33 AM
he is welcomed if he won`t accept offers of payment of all his,his wife,aides and entourage costs like his predecessor did when he toured south africa and payed all his costs from American taxes because he saw this as nothing but theft of taxpayers money that should have gone into education.

that he`ll address parliament to deliver this message:National security must reflect the resolve of South Africans,as individuals and as a nation,to live as equals,to live in peace and harmony,to be free from fear and want and to seek a better life.The resolve to live in peace and harmony precludes any south African citizen from participating in armed conflict,nationally or internationally,except as provided for in terms of the Constitution or national Legislation.National security must be pursued in compliance with the law,including international law.National security is subject to the authority of parliament and the national executive.

The Defence Force is the only lawful military force in the Republic.Armed organisations or services may be established only in terms of national legislation.The security service s must be structured and regulated by national legislation The security services must act,and must teach and require their members to act ,in accordance with the constitution and the la,no member of any security service may obey a manifestly illegal order.neither the security service,nor any of their members,may in the performance of their functions prejudice a political party interest that is legitimate in terms of the constitution ;or further,in a partisan manner,any interest of a political party!To give effect to the principles of transparency and accountability,multi-party parliamentary committees must have oversight of all security ,services in a manner determined by national legislation or the rules and orders of parliament! sw

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