Dancing Clinton sees fresh start with SAfrica



CAPE TOWN, Shaun Tandon - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Saturday for a broad alliance with South Africa as she basked in a warm welcome in Africa's richest nation from President Jacob Zuma on down to streetchildren.
A visibly upbeat Clinton shook her hips to the sounds of a street brass choir in the slums of Cape Town, where she was swarmed by women and children at a housing project she had visited more than a decade ago as first lady.



Dancing Clinton sees fresh start with SAfrica
Clinton is emphasising public diplomacy during her 11-day, seven-nation tour of Africa, hoping to showcase the commitment of President Barack Obama's administration to the continent.
But the top US diplomat is also seeking to build political alliances and met with Zuma, South Africa's new president, in the eastern coastal town of Durban on Saturday to solidify ties with Africa's largest economy.
"We have the same goals for a peaceful, progressive, prosperous continent," said Clinton after the 45-minute meeting, calling for a greater role for South Africa on global challenges including climate change.
Clinton's visit could help mend the uneasy relations that existed under predecessors Thabo Mbeki and George W. Bush over such issues as Zimbabwe's political crisis, the fight against AIDS and the US invasion of Iraq.
In Cape Town, Clinton was greeted with chants of "Long Live" and a Xhosa tune in her honour, and she planted flowers with top aides in the garden of a brick home newly built through microfinancing to the poor.
"When people recognise themselves and are given the tools and the training, really to empower themselves... that's what's lasting," said Clinton.
While the photo opportunity was carefully choreographed, the reaction was spontaneous. Hundreds of women and children jostled to shake hands with Clinton, whose police-escorted motorcade wound past ramshackle homes on trash-strewn streets in a country where millions still live in shacks.
One woman showed a true entrepreneurial spirit, pleading with Clinton for some immediate support for the housing project run since the fall of apartheid by an NGO which has built more than 50,000 houses.
When Clinton politely explained she did not have her purse, her top Africa aide, Johnnie Carson, promptly handed her a 50-dollar bill which Clinton put into the woman's hand.
Washington has hoped for a stronger relationship with Zuma and on Saturday the South African leader signalled a fresh start to relations.
"In both countries there are two new administrations which are taking that relationship to a level higher. That is what we're trying to do," he told journalists.
During his tenure as South African president Mbeki had bristled at US- and British-led attempts to punish Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who led his country to independence but more recently into political and economic crisis.
Zuma in the past has supported a tougher approach on Zimbabwe, where Mugabe and former opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai entered an uneasy power-sharing deal in February.
Clinton, who on Friday clinched South Africa's commitment to jointly work for greater reforms in Zimbabwe, has carefully avoided the appearance of pressuring Zuma.
She said South Africa knew Zimbabwe's woes due to the more than three million refugees who have come from the neighbouring country.
"People come to South Africa because you're free and you're dynamic and you're making progress and you're working together," she said.
"And it's tragic that your neighbors don't have the same kind of opportunities in their own countries."
Clinton flies to Angola on Sunday, having also met with South Africa's last apartheid leader FW de Klerk who in 1990 ordered the release of Nelson Mandela -- whom she visited Friday -- after 27 years in prison.
The two leaders shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their role in negotiating a peaceful end to apartheid.
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Saturday, August 8th 2009
Shaun Tandon
           


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