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Clinton Travels to South Africa Thursday

  • Delia Robertson

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in South Africa on a visit South Africa hopes will lead to closer ties and cooperation in a number of areas. Some non-governmental organizations are hoping the visit will lead to the United States providing developmental assistance to Zimbabwe.

Secretary Clinton will meet Friday with International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. South African authorities are hoping that the meeting will lead to the formation of a mechanism to replace the defunct binational commission, which operated during the administration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

They believe this will foster increased trade and even stronger cooperation under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, known as AGOA. South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation says this country's trade with the U.S. under AGOA is more diversified than that of any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, and they want to see that grow.

Total trade between the two countries in 2008 was close to $10 billion, with South Africa enjoying a surplus of around $2 billion.

South Africa is seeking greater collaboration with the United States in combating communicable diseases, including tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS. The secretary will visit a U.S. project that offers treatment to AIDS patients with Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Mrs. Clinton will also pay a courtesy call on former President Nelson Mandela.

Earlier, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnnie Carson said that Secretary Clinton will be encouraging South Africa to press Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to fully implement the global political agreement he signed with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

"And we will also seek to work with South Africa and the regional states to ensure that the GPA is fully implemented, and that that country is able to return to democratic rule, and its people allowed to have some opportunity for economic progress," said Carson.

South African President Jacob Zuma met earlier this week with Mr. Tsvangirai and promised he would contact Mr. Mugabe to discuss what he said were Zimbabwe's weighty problems.

The United States currently provides widespread humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe, but wants to see full implementation of the global political agreement and an end to political violence and harassment of Mr. Mugabe's opponents before offering developmental or economic assistance.

But some non-governmental organizations, which in the past have argued against economic cooperation with Zimbabwe, are now saying that economic assistance should be offered by the U.S. and other Western countries.

Brian Raftopoulos of Zimbabwe's Solidarity Peace Trust tells VOA developmental assistance is key to the long-term success of the unity government.

"Obviously, the issues around GPA have to be addressed and pressure has to be brought by the region, by the international community for that matter. But, at the same time, there has got to be a new engagement around the economy, because this agreement will not move forward without that," he said.

Zimbabwe's finance minister, Tendai Biti, says the country needs $10 billion to get the economy on track and $45 billion over the coming decade to fully develop it.