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Hillary Clinton assures American support for South Africa but is short on specifics. Country leaders try to temper citizen anger over poor government services. A Mandela aide commits suicide. Unemployment continues to creep up. South Africa eyes the Olympics. And Mahatma Gandhi's house goes on sale.
Top News: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited South Africa for more than two days as part of her 11-day trip to seven African countries.
The visit is part of the rapprochement between the two countries, after years of strained relations during the previous administrations of Thabo Mbeki and George W. Bush over South Africa’s strategy to tackle HIV/AIDS and the United States’ invasion of Iraq. President Jacob Zuma already met briefly with Barack Obama during the G8 summit in Italy last month, and President Obama has indicated that he might attend the opening of the World Cup in 2010.
During her visit, Clinton met with several ministers as well as Zuma and former presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk. She praised South Africa’s sound economic policies but was short on specifics when it came to future cooperation between South Africa and the United States. She did, however, assure South Africa of U.S. support in tackling regional crises such as global warming and political tensions in Zimbabwe.
Zuma made an unannounced visit to Balfour, a township that had seen a spate of violent protests over poor government service delivery, among other things. Similar protests have erupted in several parts of the country in recent weeks as residents have denounced local authorities for failing to listen to their demands and improve housing and access to water and electricity. Zuma promised to make additional unannounced visits in the future “to keep in contact with the people.” In a similar attempt to acknowledge ordinary citizens’ complaints, Tokyo Sexwale, the new housing minister and one of the country’s richest men, spent the night in an informal settlement northwest of Johannesburg.
Zuma filled one of South Africa’s most important positions after naming Bheki Cele as the country’s new police commissioner. While crime statistics have marginally improved in recent years, South Africa remains one of the most violent countries in the world with an average of 50 murders a day. Cele, the minister for community safety of the Kwazulu-Natal province, replaces Jackie Selebi, who had been placed on leave after accusations of corrupt practices. Selebi’s trial is due to start in October.
Zuma also nominated Sandile Ngcobo, a constitutional court judge, to replace retiring Pius Langa as chief justice. Ngcobo is a career lawyer who spent a year in detention during the height of the anti-apartheid struggle. He has studied and practiced law in the United States.
South Africa’s population grew 1.07 percent over the past year to 49.3 million, according to Statistics South Africa. A high birth rate was partially offset by a large number of AIDS-related deaths. Statistics SA said that almost 11 percent of the population, or about 5.2 million people, are infected with the HIV virus. Meanwhile, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said he would review potential funds shortages of antiretroviral drugs.
South Africa recorded its second victim to swine flu after a 15-year-old boy was confirmed to have died from the disease. The number of cases in the country now has reached 480.
A member of Mandela’s protection unit committed suicide at the former president’s home (Mandela was not injured). Mandela’s foundation also dismissed reports that he is gravely ill, saying he “is well and is relaxing at his home in Johannesburg.”
Money: Unemployment edged up to 23.6 percent during the first quarter from 23.5 percent in the previous quarter. A more worrying trend is that many people are giving up seeking employment; if you include them, the jobless rate rose to 32.5 percent from 31.2 percent over the same period. In other signs that Africa’s largest economy is still reeling from the global slowdown, company failures increased 36.2 percent during the first half of the year, and car sales decreased 27.4 percent in July.
In this challenging environment, municipal workers, miners and workers in the paper industry were all able to secure above-inflation wage increases after conducting strikes. A strike seemed to be averted at Eskom, the power utility, as workers may settle for a 10.5 percent pay hike.
Consumers got a respite as inflation eased to 6.9 percent in June – a significant drop from 8 percent for the previous month. The South African government also announced the creation of a $300 million fund to help train unemployed workers.
Elsewhere: A year before becoming the first African country to organize soccer’s World Cup, South Africa is considering bidding for the 2020 Olympic Games, according to Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile. Separately, South Africa failed in its attempt to host the rugby World Cup for a second time after the 1995 hosting. The competition will be organized by England in 2015 and Japan in 2019 after a decision by the International Rugby Board.
A house in Johannesburg where Mahatma Gandhi spent three years has attracted scores of offers to buy from around the world after failing to sell in South Africa. The current owner put the house where Gandhi lived between 1908 and 1910 on the market after failing to find a buyer with an interest to protect the historical legacy of the property.