Clinton and South African Discuss Somalia
CAPE TOWN — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday that the United States was ready “to put meat on the bone” in its relations with South Africa after discussing regional issues, like the instability in Sudan and the war in Somalia, with Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s new president.
The talks were part of a broader American effort to revive the friendship between the United States and South Africa, which was particularly strong when Mrs. Clinton’s husband was president, but had grown frosty in recent years.
Mr. Zuma, who became president in May after surviving a corruption scandal, seemed to reciprocate, saying that South Africa wants to take its relationship to the United States to “a higher level.”
South Africa is a powerhouse in Africa, with an impressive mineral-driven economy and considerable clout across the continent. Mrs. Clinton said she wanted the nation to play a larger role not just in Africa but on the global stage as well, helping in the battle against climate change, for instance.
South Africa is the second stop on her seven-nation Africa tour, and Mrs. Clinton has continued to emphasize the “deep and personal” connection of President Obama, whose father was Kenyan, to the continent.
On Saturday, Mrs. Clinton and her entourage left Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, shortly after dawn and flew to Durban, a beach town on the Atlantic coast, to meet Mr. Zuma.
Mrs. Clinton’s aides said that it had been exceedingly difficult getting on Mr. Zuma’s schedule, and it was only at the last minute that the Clinton team detoured several hundred miles to see Mr. Zuma in a nondescript room at the Durban airport.
Relations between the countries had become strained in recent years in good part over former President Thabo Mbeki’s stance on AIDS — he questioned the link between H.I.V. and the disease — and his refusal to take a hard line against Zimbabwe’s autocratic leader, Robert Mugabe.
Mrs. Clinton continued on to Cape Town, where her aides had been hoping for a light day in an otherwise grueling 11-day tour, typically packed with several stops per day and lots of rushing around in motorcades and jostling by big men with sunglasses and earpieces.
But the work continued full steam. Mrs. Clinton, who seems uncannily resistant to jet lag, visited two community housing projects and danced with children, lugged some rocks into a wheelbarrow, planted flowers, planted a tree and beamed as a choir broke out into a song about her.
“Hill-ar-eee, Hill-ar-eee!” the men and women sang, their faces glazed with sweat.
Other people banged on drums, and little boys with dented trumpets tipped their heads back and blew spirited notes skyward.
The community housing project, which began with some modest seed money from the United States government, was a personal favorite of Mrs. Clinton’s. She first visited the site in 1997, then returned the next year with her husband, Bill Clinton.
“This is so exciting,” she said Saturday, as she stood with some of the women who built the houses with their own hands. “This is what I really believe in.”
One particularly audacious South African woman put that to the test. She brushed her way past the burly security guards, strutted right up to Mrs. Clinton and wagged her finger playfully, saying, “Last time you came here you promised you’d give us some more money.”
Mrs. Clinton laughed.
“You’re right,” she said. “I left my purse on the bus, but that’s no excuse.”
An aide slipped her a crisp $50 bill, which Mrs. Clinton promptly handed over to the woman.
“These are good businesswomen,” Mrs. Clinton said before disappearing into yet another armored car and driving off.