July 10, 2003

Bush visits South Africa to discuss Zimbabwe, HIV/aids

President Mbeki has secured crucial US support for key African and domestic initiatives as US President George W Bush fleshes out his policy of caring for Africa. Mbeki, addressing a Press conference yesterday, July 9, said he was pleased with the development of bilateral relations, the strong economic links with the US that were growing all the time, and continued interest by corporate America in South Africa. Mbeki said their discussions also covered African continental challenges, peace and security, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and specific areas of conflict in the continent. “The visit will certainly result in strengthened bilateral relations and strengthened co-operation to meet these other challenges that we face together,” said Mbeki.

Bush said he felt “refreshed” by Mbeki’s leadership and that he would support and work with African leaders who accepted the principles of reform. “We’ve met quite a few times and every time we’ve met I feel refreshed and appreciate your advice and counsel and your leadership. I appreciate the President's dedication to openness and accountability. He is advancing these principles in the New Partnership for African Development. He’s leader in that effort.

At the Press conference, Bush repeated his criticism of the “sad situation” in Zimbabwe. He threw his full weight behind Mbeki’s efforts to “work for the return of democracy” in South Africa’s troubled northern neighbour. Mbeki said he had briefed Bush about development in Zimbabwe, repeating his recent statements that the Zimbabwean government and opposition was in fact talking to each other about a political settlement on the country’s future. “President Bush and myself are absolutely of one mind about the urgent need to address the political and economic challenges of Zimbabwe. It’s necessary to resolve this matter as quickly as possible,” said Mbeki.

Bush said people across Africa had the will to fight HIV/Aids, but often lacked the resources to do so. The US was willing to assist and had put up $15-billion to that end. Mbeki said his government was asked to put forward a proposal on how those funds would be spent, and they wanted to respond to that request speedily. Bush said he had just appointed Ambassador Randall Tobias as Global Aids co-ordinator and, upon confirmation by Congress, will work with countries such as South Africa in developing a strategy to ensure that the money was used to save lives, implement good prevention and treatment programmes, and develop the health infrastructure in remote parts of different countries to dispense anti-retroviral drugs to those who need them.

Bush said his government had donated 50 000 metric tons of food aid to southern Africa over the past 18 months, and this year would provide over $1-billion to address food emergencies. “We care when we see people who are hungry. We look forwarding to working with President Mbeki to alleviate suffering,” said Bush.

During the talks between the Presidents and their advisors in the US embassy in Pretoria, protestors lashed out at the United States government for its disregard for other countries’ policies and basic principles of international law. ANC, SACP and COSATU members who were joined by the Friends of Cuba, called on Bush to make a firm commitment to the principles of democracy, national self-determination and multilateralism. In particular, the alliance partners called on the US to recognise and support the central, inviolable role that the United Nations and other representative multilateral institutions must play in world affairs.

In a memorandum handed over at the US embassy in Pretoria yesterday they criticised US policy towards Cuban, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries it does not agree with. The US remained the critical stumbling block in the struggle for the self-determination of the people of Palestine. It continued to display contempt for the right of all nations to self-determination and the right to determine their own policies in the interests of their own people, the memorandum said. It called on the US to respect the right of all nations to determine their own future. The US government had shown blatant disregard for the principle of multilateral resolution of international conflict, pursuing a path of unilateralism and military aggression. Its approach, which is far from encouraging peace and global security, has brought war, misery and heightened insecurity. (Pretoria News, Sowetan)

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