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SA leaders remember Obama's visit

By unknown | Nov 06, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

TWO years ago US president-elect Barack Obama visited South Africa as a Democratic Party senator from Illinois.

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, the then ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and TAC leader Zacky Achmat were among the South Africans who met him.

Yesterday Manuel's office said the matters discussed mainly concerned trade between SA and the US and issues affecting the African continent.

"Obama was particularly interested in health and education issues in SA and the broad programme of transformation," Manuel said.

"It was essentially a meeting to get an understanding of South African issues and issues of the continent."

On his winning the US presidential race Manuel said: "I congratulate him on his victory. From our engagement I found him warm, wonderful, smart and intelligent."

"My impression was that Obama fundamentally believes in the upliftment of the poor.

"This election provides great opportunities for partnerships because his approach is similar to that taken by South Africa's Constitution.

"Given the current financial crisis I hope he attends the G20 meeting on 15th November."

After his visit to the TAC offices in Khayelitsha, Obama was critical of the government's HIV-Aids treatment policy.

"On the treatment side, the information being provided by the minister of health is not accurate," Obama said.

"It is not an issue of Western science versus African science, it is just science and it's not right."

Yesterday Mbalula said during a meeting with the ANCYL that Obama had been "very sympathetic about people dying of Aids and that there had to be a comprehensive strategy to stop this".

In a speech delivered to about 300 at Cape Town's Centre for the Book, Obama had said: "There needs to be an almost clinical truth teller about Aids in this country for the problem to be solved. Not ambiguity."

Tutu praised Obama's decision to take a public HIV test.

Obama had also said that Mugabe's rule had been a "disaster" for South Africa.


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