The day George Bush killed off Nelson Mandela
By DAVID GARDNER
24th September 2007
Nelson Mandela yesterday assured the world that, contrary to the impression given by the President of the United States, reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.
Even for a statesman as blunder-prone as George Bush, it was a gaffe of toe-curling proportions.
The president's latest faux pas came as he tried to draw a tortuous link between the revered former South African leader and the sectarian violence in Iraq.
Defending his stand on the war, Mr Bush said Saddam Hussein's brutality had made it impossible for a unifying leader to emerge and halt the civil warfare that has torn Iraq apart.
"I heard somebody say, 'Where's Mandela?'" said Mr Bush.
"Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas," he added, to the general bemusement of the White House press corps.
The South African authorities were besieged with calls after Mr Bush's speech, which was carried live by TV news networks.
Many viewers feared the country's first black president and Nobel Peace Prize winner had died.
Jailed for 27 years by the former apartheid government in South Africa, Mr Mandela remained a constant thorn in the side of the white minority government.
Yesterday, his office put out an assurance that, at 89, he was very much alive.
Achmat Dangor, chief executive officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said: "It's out there.
"All we can do is reassure people, especially South Africans, that President Mandela is alive."
The president's allusion was all the more strained because Nelson Mandela was a strong opponent of the war in Iraq.
Before the 2003 invasion, he condemned Mr Bush as "a president who can't think properly and wants to plunge the world into a holocaust".
It is not the first time Mr Mandela's demise has been announced prematurely.
In 2003, CNN accidentally ran his obituary on its website and earlier this year a fringe Rightwing-group claimed he had died. He was on holiday in Mozambique at the time.
He retired from public life three years ago after beating prostate cancer in 2001.
President Bush is known for making gaffes.
He mixed up Austria with Australia in a speech in Sydney earlier this month.
Then there was his unstatesmanlike "Yo, Blair" greeting to Tony Blair at the G8 summit in St Petersburg last year.
His sometimes muddled syntax and mispronounciation of words such as nuclear, or as the president calls it "nukular", have long made him the butt of jokes.
Supporters, however, say his folksy style has helped build his popularity with Middle America.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Posted by Amkeni Ndugu Zetu! at 15:42