Ebrahim Moosa – Cii News | 25 June 2013
Despite their public disagreements on almost every other matter in South African politics, both President Jacob Zuma, who hails from the ANC, and the official opposition Democratic Alliance(DA) have found themselves striking the same note on the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama to South Africa.
For the past few weeks the DA has been the foremost player on the South African political scene rallying behind the Obama visit. First, it strongly defended the decision of the DA led City of Cape Town to confer the Freedom of the City to US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle calling the American first citizen a “leader who has led the way in peace-making and human-rights based leadership.”
The party then also sent a request to the Speaker of Parliament proposing a special joint-sitting of Parliament, to allow for Obama to address members during his official visit to South Africa.
For its part, ANC has been far less flamboyant about the visit. Nonetheless, the party did afford the trip its tacit approval, whilst also locking horns with the DA over its Cape Town Freedom of the City proposal, urging the US leader to reject the honour.
“To us this is nothing other than a diversion and I think it would be a pity if Obama accepted the award from a city that doesn’t care about the poorest of the poor,” ANC Western Cape secretary Songezo Mjongile told the Cape Times.
Yesterday President Zuma weighed in on the visit, suggesting that the Obama trip would be good for the South African economy and would assist in strengthening ties between the two countries.
“This will present an opportunity to showcase progress since the establishment of the African Union, and to discuss co-operation on matters of socio-economic development, as well as peace and security on the continent,” Zuma said in Johannesburg.
“…The US is a major investor in South Africa, with about 600 US companies operating within the South African economy.”
Zuma also said Obama would not be surprised to see protests against him in South Africa due to America’s ‘long history of democracy’. Although it was unfortunate to welcome a guest in this manner, he expressed, peaceful protests were allowed and were a legitimate way, in a democracy, to express people’s different views.
Speaking to Cii Radio on Monday, Deputy Federal Chairperson of the Democratic Alliance, Makashule Gana reiterated the DA stance on the Obama visit, calling it a positive development for South Africa.
Like Zuma earlier, Gana said the DA respected the rights of any party to protest peacefully as afforded by the constitution. However, he said, the DA had, after its assessments, taken a measured decision.
“We asked questions like: ‘Will stopping Obama coming, improve the state of the country?’ or ‘Will having him here improve economic relations?’..Our conclusion was that his visit will have a positive effect on our economy; to the general livelihood of people who do business with Americans.”
Gana also said Obama had proved that he was a friend of Africa adding that the DA had seen “positive developments” since Obama had assumed the US presidency, and hence deemed him fit for the Cape Town award.
On Sunday, a coalition of civil society organisations vehemently declared its opposition to Obama’s visit. Among the backers of the newly conceived NObama Coalition were leadership of the National Unions of Metalworkers of South Africa, the South African Communist Party, the Young Communist League of South Africa, the South African Students’ Congress, the Muslim Students’ Association, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the Friends of Cuba Society, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel in South Africa, and the World Federation of Trade Unions.
The organisations said: “We categorically make it known that the visit of the US president to South Africa is an unwelcome visit that will be protested, picketed and resisted by all justice and peace-loving peoples of this country.”
“Friendship with South Africa must be based on values of justice, freedom and equality, and these the US has offended, undermined and ridiculed through its actions in the global front,” they said.