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South Africa-US Business Ties Would Continue to be Strengthened, Says Zuma

The President of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) says strong relations between his country and the United States would continue to improve significantly, irrespective of who wins the upcoming U.S. and South Africa elections. Jacob Zuma, who is making what, is reportedly his first high-profile foreign visit, met in Washington this week with US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In this exclusive interview with the Voice of America, Zuma tells reporter Peter Clottey that there would be no economic policy shift by South Africa.

"We thought it was important that we see the outgoing (Bush) administration just to ensure that what we've been doing will certainly continue. Also of course, as you know, in South Africa, there is going to be a change early next year. So that is very important, because we have done a lot together. But also to ensure that there would be a continuity," Zuma pointed out.

He said one objective of his US trip has been to encourage international private business interest in the many investment prospects that exist in South Africa.

"We want to engage the private sector with regards to the opportunities in South Africa and in Africa in particular, but also to clarify issues with regards to the happenings in South Africa. So it was important from that point of view," he said.

Zuma said he had fruitful discussions with US officials on his visit here in Washington.

"I think it has been good, the reception extremely good. I think we have discussed all these relevant issues, and we have been looking at what we could do as two countries, particularly on matters that affect the continent, as well as matters that affect South Africa in particular. I think it has gone extremely well. The kind of understanding between the two has been very good as well with regards to business. I think the interaction was really good," Zuma noted.

He said there is need to make clear that ANC policies on the economy will continue.

"Certainly, I think, as you would know of course, we've had slightly different systems. In the United States the president's campaign has put across what they (the candidates) would do as presidents as it is happening now. In South Africa, it is the political parties that put across their policies, and people vote on the basis of the policies of the parties. The Presidents are given the task to undertake and implement those policies. In the main, therefore, it might not relay entirely to an individual person. But the question is: will the individual person be able to implement the policies?" he asked.

Zuma reiterated that the economic policies of the ANC would not change, irrespective of who becomes the leader of the country.

"Of course, we have been saying to people that with regards to ANC, the ANC would always decide that its president is a president that would implement its policies. They (ANC) would be the first to worry if they thought that the person was not going to implement their polices as the ANC. And we have therefore been saying to people, assuring them that there is nothing that is going to change," Zuma pointed out.

Meanwhile, Zuma said another purpose of his visit was to strengthen South Africa's commercial ties with the United States. He repeated his belief that not enough has been done to encourage investment from the US, which is seen as one of South Africa's most strategic trading partners.

Some foreign investors are reportedly worried Zuma may bow to pressure from his communist and trade union allies to steer South Africa away from former President Thabo Mbeki's pro-business policies. The fears escalated after COSATU and the Communist Party unveiled economic polices calling on the government for more intervention in the economy to combat increasing poverty among South Africa's large black population.