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Zuma Set for First Official State Visit


South African President Jacob Zuma makes his first official state visit Wednesday when he travels to neighboring Angola.

The two countries have strong historical ties and are now linked by trade and investment. Angola is Africa's largest oil producer.

Mr. Zuma is expected to be accompanied by 11 cabinet ministers in what is described as the largest South African business delegation to Angola since 1994.

Angolan expert Mohamed El-Khawas, professor of history and political science at the University of the District of Columbia, in Washington, DC, says, "The two countries really have had a great deal of interest in working together, but also they have shared the history of the struggle – the fight to end racism in South Africa and to try to get independence in Angola," he says.

Rising star of Africa

El-Khawas calls Angola a "rising star" of great interest to South Africa, adding that South Africa has keen interest in its oil reserves.

"If South Africa can try to get preferential treatment from Angola, which will ensure a steady supply of oil, but also at the more favorable price, that will be good for the South African economy," he says.

"Another reason…is that Angola has a good relationship with China. South Africa also… but not to the same extent. So my feeling really is that Zuma ideologically is inclined to be getting along well with Angola…. And there is a need for the two countries to try to solidify their relationship," he says.

Good for Angola, too

"I also believe that Angola can…benefit from the South African experience in democratization. South Africa is really a model not only for southern Africa, but for the whole continent," he says.

While Angola has held legislative elections since the end of its 27-year-long civil war, it has not held a presidential election for about two decades.

"The presidential election that has been scheduled for this year – the president (Jose Eduardo Dos Santos) has not decided yet whether he's going to have it this year or next year or when," he says.

Professor El-Khawas says Angola's political process should be more open to allow opposition parties, like the former rebel group UNITA, greater opportunity to compete.

U.S. interest

"Angola was one of the countries in southern Africa that (Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton decided to visit. And even when she was there she never really tried to stress democratic reform or presidential elections, but she said the relationship is improving now," he says.

Angola is rebuilding its infrastructure, which was destroyed during the civil war. Many people were killed or displaced. The country is still in the process of clearing the many thousands of landmines that were laid during the conflict.

"Angola is trying, but I also believe that corruption at the highest level in the government is…wasting a lot of money that could have been used in development and reconstruction," he says.

South African President Zuma will spend two days in Angola.


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