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Obama is a hit in South Africa

At a black church in the Melville suburb of Johannesburg on Sunday, Jesus was praised through songs and chants, but he wasn’t the only one honored that day.

“This week we join people all over the world in celebrating the inauguration of America’s 44th president, Barack Hussein Obama,” Rev. Robert Kelley said. “While we face many global challenges, Tuesday marks an important start, a new beginning.”

Obama is definitely popular in South Africa. His election was widely covered by the local press, and when I say that I come from America or take out my Old-Glory-adorned credit card, a typical reaction is “Aaah, Obama!” accompanied by a wide smile.

But don’t expect huge celebrations for Obama’s inauguration either.  The event barely registers on the local newspapers’ front pages today, and most South Africans are more concerned with their own election coming this spring with the ruling African National Congress facing its stiffest competition yet and the ANC president embroiled in a corruption scandal.

One South African who will rejoice tonight, however, is Pieter Ferreira. The cellar master for Graham Beck, a winery in the Cape Town area, said that last February a sommelier in a Chicago restaurant recommended that Obama try a glass of Graham Beck Brut Non-Vintage — a bubbly made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes – that former South African President Nelson Mandela chose for his own inauguration in 1994. Obama must have liked the wine. He ordered six bottles of it for his victory night, Ferreira said.

We’re just completely thrilled,” Ferreira said. “Sales are going good for the Graham Beck Brut in the U.S.”

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