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Analyst says Prescriptions for US Economy Would Probably Not Resonate in South Africa

Greg Mills, the director of the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg, says President Bush’s State of the Union speech was remarkable for its contrast with his inaugural remarks a few weeks ago. Mr. Mills says the former focused on international issues, while the State of the Union had a large component devoted to domestic issues. Among them were reform of the US social security system and support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Mr. Mills told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that while some South Africans do invest their a portion of their pay into stocks and annuities, it is not likely the country – with a 40 percent unemployment rate – would formally adopt a system of private accounts, as advocated by President Bush. Also, Mr. Mills says while religious leaders were instrumental in ending apartheid, their focus today is on providing food and shelter, and not on moral issues of interest to American voters, such as stem cell research and a ban on gay marriage.

In fact, South Africa’s constitution forbids discrimination between individuals based on gender or sexual preference. That is not to say, however, that most South Africans would agree to gay marriage. Mr. Mills says much of the country adheres to traditional values, and a referendum on the topic would probably put South African voters on par with their American counterparts on the subject of same-sex unions.