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Transition 2012

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Views From Abroad: A South African Take on the U.S. Race

by Toni Johnson
July 14, 2012

Cityscape of Cape Town in South Africa, February 17, 2010. (Courtesy Reuters) Cityscape of Cape Town in South Africa, February 17, 2010. (Courtesy Reuters)

On this weeks’ Views, we head to South Africa. In an interview with CFR’s Bernard Gwertzman, Moeletsi Mbeki, a prominent political economist and brother of former South African President Thabo Mbeki, offers his perspective on campaign 2012. He says South Africans feel a “special relationship” with the Democratic Party for its history of support for the anti-apartheid movement and are favorable toward President Obama because of his commitment to democracy in Africa:

Has Obama created a lot of enthusiasm for himself or is he just considered another Democrat?

Obviously, there was a lot of interest about Obama, because he is the first African-American president in the United States. He’s a very eloquent guy; he’s kind of in the league of Martin Luther King. If you remember, he spoke in Cairo, and in Accra, Ghana. What he said then resonated very strongly with people in Africa, especially the point he made that what Africa needs is not strong men but strong institutions. We suffer at the hands of strong men. So it was very positive that the United States had a new president, and that he realized that he had to dissociate the United States from strong men like Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, who had had a lot of the United States’ support. Obama’s commitment to democracy in Africa has made him an ally to the majority of Africans, who feel that democracy in a way is a precondition to the solution of our problems.

Are Africans familiar with Republican candidate Mitt Romney?

Not until he started running against Obama. The Republicans, certainly in terms of South Africa, don’t have a good record. In more recent times Ronald Reagan had a policy of “constructive engagement” with the apartheid regime, which we, South African blacks, were totally against. But I have to give credit to George W. Bush, who instituted good anti HIV/AIDS programs.

Read the rest of the interview here.

 

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