Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
May 19, 2009

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, let me just start, first of all, with just a general question about the new government in South Africa. What’s your general view on this new government led by Mr. Jacob Zuma?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it looks like President Zuma is off to a good start. I think his early comments about who would be in his cabinet and how he intended to continue a strong economic program that will benefit the people of South Africa was very welcome. We look forward to working with the new government. I know when President Obama talked with President Zuma, he said that this is an area that we believe holds great promise for our two countries to cooperate, and we are excited about the potential for a very broad engagement between us.

QUESTION: Well, one of the areas in the Southern Africa which has been – put it – let me put it like this, one of the unfinished businesses in the SADC region is the issue of Zimbabwe and that the World Bank or the IMF who were there, all now coming on board to support the new inclusive government in Zimbabwe. Are we about to see America changing its stance in supporting the Government of Zimbabwe financially, for instance?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are, as you know, deeply concerned about the results of what we view as misrule and unfortunate actions by the prior government. We’re encouraged by the new unity government that has been created. We are not yet ready to change our policy, but it is under review.

It’s important to us that any aid from any source get to the people of Zimbabwe. I just find it heartbreaking. I’ve been to that country. I’ve met and worked with people from Zimbabwe over the years. It’s a country with enormous potential that has been deeply hurt and scarred by the events of the last years. So I want to be sure that any aid that comes from an American perspective gets to the people, it doesn’t stop at the government. And I think there are very strong voices inside the new unity government, the prime minister and others, who believe that as well; if we’re going to give money for education, make sure it ends up with school books and additional teachers and other assets that will help the children succeed. But we’re not yet confident that we see a direct route there. So we’re working on it, and we want very much to help the people of Zimbabwe recover.

QUESTION: Would you like to see President Mugabe go first before you can come in?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that would be in the best interests of everyone. I think that it’s up to the people and the government and, frankly, the neighbors. South Africa has a big role to play in this. No one questions his early commitment to freedom and to an end of colonialism and oppression. That is a great historic contribution. But for whatever reason, the last years of his rule have hurt so many of his people. They haven’t hurt outsiders. They’ve hurt his people. They’ve hurt his children, the children of Zimbabwe and their futures.

So it is not for us to make that determination, but we hope that the government, whoever is running it, will be devoted to reconstructing that country with its extraordinary potential and taking its rightful place as a democratic developing country that holds such promise.

QUESTION: And finally, where does Africa feature in President Barack Obama’s foreign policy? I haven’t heard either you or Barack Obama stating the position in regard to Africa very clearly.

SECRETARY CLINTON: It is a very important aspect of our foreign policy, and you will hear more and more about that. You know, the President has decided to add a quick stop in Africa by going to Ghana after he goes to Egypt to address the Islamic world. That was done very deliberately. It is not a full trip. There are many important countries like your own that cannot be included at this moment.

But the President wanted to send a very strong message that Africa is important to him; it is certainly important to me. I intend to take a trip to Africa later this year. And I see Africa as one of the most important priorities. It’s not only important personally to the President; it’s important strategically as to how we see the world. But we are in the process of developing our ideas and our approaches. There were some very positive developments in Africa over the last years. We don’t want to turn away from what good has been done both by Africans themselves and through programs like PEPFAR, for example, which has helped many countries combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS. But we want to be sure that when we put forth our policies, they are well thought out and they will have the positive results for Africa that we seek.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for your time.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Good to talk with you. I appreciate it. Thank you.

PRN: 2009/483