Motlanthe, Biden meet, agree on greater cooperation

By Andy Rice 13 June 2010

South African deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and US vice president Joe Biden had their scheduled bilateral meeting on Saturday, and love was in the air. And, of course, a prediction of the US / South Africa World Cup final.

Meanwhile, the media got to sit in the warm Pretoria sunshine waiting for the moment to grab a photo and feel all that love.

Biden and Motlanthe, accompanied by international relations and cooperation deputy minister Ebrahim Ebrahim, discussed boosting bilateral strategic dialogue following the agreement signed in April in Washington by minister of international relations and cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Apparently brimming with patriotic fervour following Bafana Bafana’s stirring performance against Mexico in Friday’s opening match of the World Cup, Motlanthe kicked off the meeting by predicting a US / South Africa final round. And Biden responded with a “from your lips to God’s ears”.

Saturday’s meeting focused on the usual suspects – cooperation on education, health, rural development, job creation, crime reduction and climate change issues – with Haitian reconstruction thrown in for good measure. The two also spoke about the importance of joint support for good governance, democracy, respect for human rights and peace and stability in Africa. Finally, the two men took time to acknowledge the importance of the US-South African partnership on HIV/Aids.

There was no surprise in any of this – and maybe this is the real impact of this meeting. It underscored the increasingly “boring” normality of US-South African ties as the frequent awkwardness and prickliness of the Bush-Mbeki era is being swept right out of the room.

Biden joked that he was becoming increasingly fond of meeting vice and deputy presidents and extended an invitation to Motlanthe to stay at the Admiral’s House on the grounds of the Naval Observatory, the official residence of the US vice president. 

Then, reaching out to South Africans as a whole, Biden pointed to America’s would-be, hoped-for common cause with South Africa towards the rest of the continent. “You don’t need us, we need you to demonstrate your leadership in Africa on the things we can work together on.”

Following attendance at the opening ceremonies, the vice president and his wife’s schedule included the widely touted US – England soccer face-off in Rustenburg on Saturday evening, before returning to the US.

Prior to arriving in South Africa, Biden’s Africa trip included stops in Egypt and Kenya to meet with presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mwai Kibaki to discuss concerns such as the never-ending Middle East crisis, Kenyan economic developments, the Sudan, developments in Somalia and piracy off the Horn of Africa.

By J Brooks Spector

Photo: The Daily Maverick


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