Briefing on Plane

Johnnie Carson
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
En Route to Pretoria
August 6, 2009

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: And I will do what PJ said before, I will just start with just a few comments on the record, and then I will shift to just an off -- can you hear -- no? Is that a little bit better? Yes, I'm not -- yes.

I will start with a few comments on the record, and then I will just shift to off-the-record. Background, background, yes. That's fine.

Anyway, South Africa is clearly the most important state in southern Africa. It's a leader in SADC. It has a very diverse economy, and a democracy which is strong.

The Secretary's visit to South Africa is intended to help strengthen relationships between the United States and South Africa, to broaden and deepen those relationships with a new South African government that came into power on May 9th, with the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma.

The second purpose of the visit is to encourage South Africa to play a leadership role in SADC, especially in helping to resolve two of the major political issues that confront the region. One is the situation in Zimbabwe, the other is the situation in Madagascar.

And, thirdly, the Secretary hopes to use the visit to talk to the South African business community, to encourage it to remain vibrant and strong, to continue to drive the economy of the region, and to be a leader in strengthening Africa's regional and international trade.

While she is there -- I will stay on the record -- while she is there, the Secretary will meet with President Jacob Zuma on Saturday morning in Durban. She will also meet with South Africa's vice president and former president, Motlanthe. She will also meet with South Africa's new foreign minister, Ambassador Mashabane. The Secretary has not met with any of these officials before, although she has had an extended --

QUESTION: She met with Zuma, right, before he was president?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: She may have. Did she? Are you sure? Okay, it's possible.


ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: I don't think so, but you may be right. I know she hasn't met with the South African foreign minister. She had a telephone call with her approximately four weeks ago. And she hopes to meet them and begin to establish a good working relationship with them.

She will also meet with South Africa's minister of health, where she will also visit an HIV and AIDS clinic. All of you know that South Africa has had a very -- has been affected by AIDS more than any other country in Africa. There are more HIV/AIDS cases in South Africa than in any other place in the world. And it is also the place where the U.S. government has its largest PEPFAR program.

The Secretary will go down to Cape Town on Saturday, and will visit a housing estate that she has visited twice before, once to lay the foundation stone for a new house in a new resettlement area. She went back a second time, after some several thousands units had -- or I should -- several hundred units had been built. And she will go back to the same housing area, where now some 5,000 houses have been built. It's a real African success story.

Anyway, let me stop there and I will go off the record a little bit.


PRN: 2009/T11-20