American Newspaper Coverage
Sunday, June 5, 1966
Bobby Kennedy : a Political Safari
Rarely since Attila descended on Rome has there been a chillier official reception than the one South Africa's government is according Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
But the boisterous mob of 2,000 students who greeted Kennedy at the Johannesburg airport last night more than made up for the Verwoerd government's glacial snub of New York's junior Senator.
The 'We love you, Bobby' placards far outnumbered the 'Yankee, go home' signs that bristled from the crowd. 'I have seen much worse signs back home,' Kennedy said benignly to the dissenters.
But the Senator from New York did not conceive of his safari as a good will pilgrimage to Pretoria. He knows that the antennas of public awareness to his visit will tingle from Durban and Cape Town to Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant and even to Watts and Chicago's South Side.
He is not seeking out the apartheid minded white heirarchs of the Verwoerd government, but rather the restless students and the smoldering and aspiring have nots of the underdeveloped world. It is a trip patterned on the Kennedy traditions of political choreography; the young American, vibrant and confident, in the eye of the acclamatory crowd.
In the eye of the government in Pretoria, the visit is as welcome as a mild plague. All over South Africa the pro-government white population will symbolically turn its face from the American visitor. By decree, the South African radio will carry only the tersest mention of Kennedy's presence. Foreign newsmen, Americans included, are being barred from entering the country. Ian Robertson, the 21-years-old student leader who invited Kennedy to South Africa, is forbidden to appear with him. Robertson has been banned from attending public gatherings by government decree.