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President Obama's Trip to Africa Highlighted

Aired June 28, 2013 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

U.S. President Barack Obama has just arrived in South Africa, a country that right now is deeply anxious about the failing health of its national icon, Nelson Mandela.

Obama calls Mandela his personal hero. The two were the first black presidents of their respective countries. But the only time they've ever met was in Washington in 2005, when Obama was still a senator and Mandela was out of office.

But President Obama credits him with inspiring his first stirrings of political activism. As a college student, he joined the global anti- apartheid movement as Mandela led the movement from behind bars.

Now after a frenzy of press speculation over whether the two leaders will meet now in South Africa, Obama says he'll leave that decision up to Mandela's family. And for much of this week, South Africans, including young children, have been singing and praying outside the hospital where he's listed as critical but now stable.

There is also great nostalgia for the Mandela era as the Rainbow Nation is forced to ask whether it has lived up to its promise. And in a moment, I'll be speaking with South Africa's minister of trade and industry, who'll be meeting the president tomorrow.

But first, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. She is South Africa's foreign minister, and she just greeted America's first family as they stepped off Air Force One in Pretoria and she joins me by phone now from Pretoria.

Foreign Minister, how was it we watched the live coverage of you greeting the president and Ms. Obama and the girls? What was this moment in the history of South Africa?

MAITE NKOANA-MASHABANE, FOREIGN MINISTER, SOUTH AFRICA: Well, on behalf of President Zuma, the government and the people of South Africa, we have extended a friendly and warm South African welcome to (inaudible) President Obama and his family to South Africa.

And we think that this visit is historic because we will continue to cement a very, very important (inaudible) government of the people of the United States of America, informed by our African agenda for more foreign policy. And that which President Obama announced in June 2012 is the American-South African government or is administration African policy.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister, we're seeing you right now in our picture; you're wearing a very beautiful black and white jacket. What does it mean for you emotionally as you greet America's first black president and you have your own first black president in Nelson Mandela?

What does this moment mean in that regard?

NKOANA-MASHABANE: Well, it's quite a significant moment for us because we think we have an opportunity to continue advancing the foreign (inaudible) of the two nations that are informed by democracy, both governments, (inaudible) in the spirit of partnership between Africans and, in particular, South Africa and the American (inaudible) their own black nationality.

And they are presidents and also seeing that in this era when Africans are saying yes to partnerships and that also Africans are seeing (inaudible) the time for provision of Africans, solutions to African problems, supported by a well-meaning (inaudible) and we see in President Obama and his administration that partner that has come out in June 2012 to announce the Africa strategy that says Africa is on the rise but Africa can (inaudible) partnership with the global community, every participant and also making a contribution to global peace, security and development.

AMANPOUR: And how much of a shadow does the health of Nelson Mandela put over this -- over this visit, do you think?

NKOANA-MASHABANE: (Inaudible) moment where President Zuma and President Obama and the international community will be seeing, we have an icon that is a father of the nation of South Africa and that this icon, Nelson Mandela, the icon that has also inspired President Obama as a student and an activist who then spoke about him (inaudible) to see this is a time working in Mandela's leadership to come back, work with Africa that is on the rise, invest in their lives, then officiate but also say that Madiba, our icon, our shared global icon, would have wanted and continue to want us to continue marching on.

So we really don't have any clout in this country as you can see, (inaudible) people celebrating and we'll continue to celebrate Madiba's life in action.


NKOANA-MASHABANE: Because this is the man we know. And that's the mood we have prevailing on the ground here.

AMANPOUR: Foreign Minister Mashabane, thank you so much for joining me.

And now I'd like to turn to Rob Davies, who will be meeting with President Obama, and he is South Africa's minister of trade and industry.

He also joins me now by phone from Pretoria.

Minister Davies, thank you for joining me. I want to ask you whether you think South Africa has lived up to the promise of Nelson Mandela. There's a huge amount of Mandela era nostalgia, a sense that actually the successive governments have not fulfilled the economic promise, the promise of equality for everybody, that President Mandela laid out.

What do you say about that?

ROB DAVIES, MINISTER OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY, SOUTH AFRICA: Well, I have no doubt that we have a number of challenges, maybe even more the legacy that we inherited from apartheid.

But I think it's very significant that the White House told the African ambassadors that one of the key objectives of President Obama's visit to the continent and to our country is that he wanted to use the visit to signal to U.S. business and the world his confidence that Africa is a center of global growth.

And South Africa is very much a part of that. We are the most industrialized country on the continent.

We are a country that is working energetically with our neighbors to build a large regional market, the FedEx committee's African community countries, 26 countries with a combined population of 600 million and a combined GDP of $1 trillion, are working together to create a free trade area as a basis for industrial development.

And that's where our continent is positioned and I think that's what President Obama and the administration are recognizing in this visit.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Davies, you obviously do have an enormous mineral wealth; you have enormous economic opportunity. Unfortunately, South Africa's growth has slowed down quite considerably and also obviously a lot of foreign investors are quite worried about South Africa to the point that the ANC this week put out a tweet saying that investors need not worry about South Africa in a post-Mandela era.

But obviously people are worried. So the question is, what do you think you, as a minister, your party, needs to do to regain the faith of the world?

DAVIES: Well, I think that what we need to recognize is that we've passed the peak of the commodity supercycle that characterized the world economy for the last little while. We've passed that peak about a year or so ago.

And many countries that have relied on primary product mineral export, including Australia, including countries in South America, including other countries in Africa, are finding that this line of business is no longer going to yield the results, at least in the short term.

And Africa has said that what we actually need to do now is we need to move away from an overemphasis on primary product production and export to value addition, value added activities and industrialization.

And that's the project that we're on. That's what many, many African leaders have identified as the challenge right now. That's what we're building. And we're looking for partnerships with investors in a number of value-added activities. And in fact, we're not seeing any slowdown of interest, even from United States companies. There's more than 600 that are involved in the South African economy.

And a number of them have been announcing quite significant investments. The latest one was Procter & Gamble, which is establishing a new, sizable factory in (inaudible) South Africa. We had a number of investments from motor manufacturers, from United States among other places. And so in value-added activities, I think we've seen a steady pipeline of foreign direct investment.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Davies, there's a big problem of corruption, a lot of people have talked about it. A lot of South Africans are very, very disillusioned about it. There's a huge gap between the very poor and the increasingly very rich. And even the ANC secretary-general has acknowledged that there's a huge amount of corruption and obviously this affects everything, not just democracy, but the economy as well.

What is the ANC doing? What are government ministers urging in order to combat what's becoming an endemic corruption?

DAVIES: Well, we just took some very stern action against many of the leading companies in the construction industry, which all of them under our competition law owned up to high levels of collusion and corruption in the construction of the stadiums for the 2010 World Cup. So we've taken very strong action in that regard.

We also are taking action against people that we find in government who are corrupt. So I think that corruption is a problem which exists around the world and, indeed, I think that we are having a policy of energetically combating corruption (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: Minister Davies, thank you very much indeed for joining us. And as I said, of course, you will also be meeting with President Obama tomorrow.

And just before President Obama left Senegal, he toured Glory Island, which is the 18th century point of embarkation for African slaves who were shipped off in chains to the Americas. Here he stands over 200 years later, the first African-American president in what the slaves called the Door of No Return.

And after a break, while the world's attention is focused on South Africa, neighboring Zimbabwe is also on edge. Robert Mugabe, in power since 1980, is running for yet another term and doing it with an iron fist. We'll meet someone on the receiving end when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program and continuing our coverage of President Obama's trip to Africa, he is in South Africa and of course Nelson Mandela is the icon of African democracy. But while he was still in jail back in 1980 another black ruler brought an end to white minority rule in his country and he was hailed around the world as a freedom fighter then.

That country was neighboring Zimbabwe and that man was Robert Mugabe. It's hard to imagine today as he embodies one-man iron fist rule. Nearly four years ago, I came face to face with Mugabe and I asked him about his place in history.


AMANPOUR: Can I ask you a question about Nelson Mandela?

ROBERT MUGABE, PRESIDENT, ZIMBABWE: He's a great man, that one, yes.

AMANPOUR: Nelson Mandela has got so much of the attention for being the great liberator of Africa.


AMANPOUR: You did it earlier. Do you sometimes wish that you had got as much attention?

MUGABE: President Mandela is President Mandela, and Robert Mugabe is Robert Mugabe. Look at him in his own circumstances, and that's it. If you damn him, well and good, but I know my people have great praise for me. I know the African people think very highly of me. And that satisfies me.

AMANPOUR: It does?


AMANPOUR: Even though you lost these elections?

MUGABE: Which elections?

AMANPOUR: The last ones.

MUGABE: No, we didn't lose the elections at all.


AMANPOUR: That's because they haven't been free and fair and Mugabe has won, in fact, every time. And at 89, he's standing for election once again next month and once again, there's a crackdown on the opposition and on human rights defenders like my next guest, Beatrice Mtetwa. Here she is in action in a recent documentary about her struggle for the rule of law.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible), take one.

BEATRICE MTETWA, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER: Unlike a lot of other dictators, Robert Mugabe doesn't just go out and do what he wants. They first go to parliament and passes a law and says it is now illegal to punch somebody in the nose and they say, you say, hey, you can't do that. It says that that is the law.


AMANPOUR: President Obama himself has been extolling the rule of law on this Africa trip and, of course, of democracy. Before he got to Africa, I spoke to Beatrice about whether she thinks the rule of law is possible for Zimbabwe to achieve any time soon.


AMANPOUR: Beatrice Mtetwa, thank you so much for joining me from London.

MTETWA: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Let me start out by asking you what you just said on that clip of the documentary was so powerful. It almost encapsulates exactly what is happening in Zimbabwe today. And you are a lawyer, trying to use the constitution to defend political figures, to defend human rights figures.

How can you do that when the law appears to be arbitrary?

MTETWA: Well, we try to do what we can, really, within the confines of the environment we operate in and we get (inaudible) sometimes and things go our way, sometimes we don't get so lucky. So unless you try, you never really know what you can do with the law.

AMANPOUR: Describe the abuses that your clients face.

MTETWA: Well, I've had a client who's been abducted and for three weeks, she was being tortured, basically a whole lot of human rights defenders who have been not just physically harassed, but also psychologically tormented.

AMANPOUR: So tell me in a nutshell what is the charge against you, what is the so-called law that you were brought in under.

MTETWA: The allegation is that I obstructed the police from doing their work when I was called to a client's home, which was being ransacked. And I asked for a search warrant. And they didn't give it to me. And they said that I shouted and I screamed at them, and obstructed them from carrying out their work.

AMANPOUR: And what could you face for shouting and screaming? What is the maximum sentence you could face?

MTETWA: It's two years. I could be in jail for two years if I make - - if I'm convicted.

AMANPOUR: So just to be clear, that is two years for shouting and screaming at the police, saying that you wanted to have a search warrant.

MTETWA: Well, that is what it would mean. I mean, how you can stop somebody from doing a search by shouting, just the mind boggles literally.

AMANPOUR: You've had quite a lot of aggression and violence directed towards you. What do you think your future is in Zimbabwe?

MTETWA: Well, I mean, I don't know what's going to happen if I get convicted, I get convicted and I serve my time and see what happens thereafter. What can I do other than that? I'm hoping to continue practicing and basically because I don't believe that I should be prosecuted for doing my job.

AMANPOUR: Well, of course, we've been covering Zimbabwe and looking at the political situation for many, many years now. There is another presidential election coming up at the end of July. Do you feel that there is stepped-up crackdown against opposition, against human rights activists, against journalists? Do you feel that that's happening in Zimbabwe right now?

MTETWA: Certainly in the last nine months we've seen a lot of civil society activists being arrested. A number of them have been prosecuted currently (ph) and I'm defending some of them. I also believe that my arrest is part of that crackdown because they want as few human rights lawyers to be out there during the election period as they can manage to stop.

So clearly there has been a crackdown and it is directly connected to the elections.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me play you a clip of an interview that I conducted with Robert Mugabe about three years ago. It was just after an election that eventually he triumphed in, as you can imagine. And I asked him about staying in power. Listen to this.


AMANPOUR: Why is it so difficult to leave power in a reasonable way when you're up, instead of waiting until it gets to this stage?

MUGABE: You don't leave power when imperialists dictate that you leave.

AMANPOUR: No, no imperialists. You are the president.

MUGABE: No, there is regime change. Haven't you heard of a regime change program by Britain and the United States, which is aimed at getting not just Robert Mugabe out of power, but Robert Mugabe and his party out of power? And that naturally means we dig in, remain in our trenches.


AMANPOUR: Beatrice, how do you read that? That was three years ago, "remain in our trenches," dig in. Do you think there's any chance that this ruling party will be voted out?

MTETWA: You know, my view is really that whether they're in or out, they should simply just respect the rule of law. Whoever is in power must respect the rule of law. And there would be no need for people like me if whoever is in power respects the rule of law. I'm not part of any regime change agenda. My job is to be a lawyer, and I shouldn't be harassed for doing my work.

AMANPOUR: So let's ask about the constitutional changes that recently were passed, that a president cannot be in power for longer than two 5-year terms; but apparently, this is not retroactive to the current president, which is Robert Mugabe, and that he can actually even stand again for election and may be in power for another 10 years, if he wins, up to the age of 99, if he survives.

Why on Earth and how on Earth was that able to be passed?

MTETWA: Well, because they are the political parties agree to it and the people agreed to that being in the constitution and therefore it's become the law.

But I just find that the constitutional is completely overrated because it can be changed any time as we've seen with the previous constitution and really it's a piece of paper that we have still yet to see whether it's for regions will be carried through. It has some good clauses. It has some bad clauses.

But the proof of the pudding is really in the eating. How will it be interpreted going forward? Will it give people rights? Will somebody change it if and when it doesn't suit them? We don't know. The jury's still out on that.

AMANPOUR: And then, of course, there is a problem with the opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai has had all sorts of negative publicity recently, from the price of his house to the upscale nature of some of his vacations. I mean, there's all sorts of sort of opposition to him as well.

People seem to be disappointed in him. What's going on there? Do you agree that the opposition is not in a strong position?

MTETWA: Well, I mean all those guys are politicians and we know that generally with some of these guys, then you get in there, the power is more important than serving the people.

And so we don't know how the MTC (ph) would perform if it was in full control of the entire country. The jury's still out, again, on how they would perform. Yet certainly there has been a lot of negative publicity against the MTC's leadership. And obviously that (inaudible) how the people will view that party going forward.

AMANPOUR: Beatrice Mtetwa, thank you so much indeed for joining me.

MTETWA: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And of course, we'll be watching those elections in Zimbabwe next month.

And after a break, poets love to write of courage and inspiration, but imagine a 94-year-old legend giving life to those words, the indomitable spirit of Nelson Mandela when we come back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, a little poetry.

" Do not go gentle into that good night.rage, rage against the dying of the light." So wrote the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, half a century ago in tribute to his dying father.

Now imagine a world where those same words ring true for South Africa's living legend. Nelson Mandela, who fought apartheid with every ounce of his being, continues to confound the obituary writers and continues to inspire people everywhere with his indomitable spirit.

His ex-wife, Winnie Mandela, spoke in Soweto today on behalf of the family. And she offered a glimmer of hope.


WINNIE MANDELA, EX-WIFE OF NELSON MANDELA: There is much here to answer any medical questions. I'm not a doctor. But I can say that from what he was a few days ago, there is great improvement. But clinically he is still unwell.


AMANPOUR: Along with many family members, Winnie has been visiting Nelson Mandela over the last several weeks in hospital. And poets write of courage and will a precious few, like Nelson Mandela, get to live out those words. And our world is immeasurably richer for it.

That's it for our program tonight. Meantime, you can always contact us at our website, Thanks for watching and goodbye from New York.