The US embassy in Pretoria and the South African government have agreed not to allow President Donald Trump’s alleged description of African nations as “shithole” countries to harm the good relations between the two countries. By Peter Fabricius.


Photo: US President Donald J. Trump makes opening remarks as he holds a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 10 January 2018. Pictured from left to right: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; President Trump; US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis; and US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. EPA-EFE/Ron Sachs / POOL


In effect the US embassy in Pretoria and the South African government have clearly just agreed to detour around the embarrassing occupant of the White House and to continue without him.
It’s hard to avoid reading this interpretation into statements issued by both sides after they met in Pretoria on Monday. This followed the South African government issuing a démarche to acting US ambassador Jessye Lapenn, summoning her to a meeting at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) to explain Trump’s reported insult.
After the meeting with Lapenn, who is the US charge d’affaires, Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela noted in a statement that the meeting had taken place on Martin Luther King Day in the US, a holiday honouring America’s greatest civil rights leader who fought and died for equal rights for America’s African Americans.
“It was noted that Africa and the African diaspora has contributed significantly to the United States and to its development into the country that it is today, and that the African and international reaction to the alleged statements clearly serve as a united affirmation of the dignity of the people of Africa and the African diaspora,” Monyela said.
“The United States Embassy and the United States Charge d’Affaires responded to the concerns of South Africa by stating that ‘there has been no change in the United States’ dedication to our partners across the continent’ and that ‘the United States deeply respects the people of Africa and the people of South Africa, and values its partnerships with them’.
“It was also stated that the United States will continue to move forward with Africa by focusing on the goals that truly reflect the strong bilateral ties shared by the United States and South Africa and the United States and African countries, and that ‘progress forward will not be diverted by anything contrary to those goals’.
“It was reiterated that relations between South Africa and the United States, and between the rest of Africa and the United States, must be based on mutual respect and understanding.” Monyela said.
US embassy spokesperson Cindy Harvey confirmed the meeting and said the embassy “appreciates the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) providing us the opportunity to reiterate our commitment to working with South Africa to achieve shared goals and strengthen our bilateral ties.
“We remain committed to working together to realise the promise of a more peaceful, more productive, more prosperous South Africa.”
US media reported last Thursday that Trump had described African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as “shithole countries” in a meeting between legislators of both main parties to discuss immigration.
Trump allegedly complained about too many immigrants entering the US from these countries rather than Norway.
Trump later denied using the language attributed to him but Democrat Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who was in the meeting, has insisted that he used the insulting term several times. Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina supported his version.
Trump’s remark has been condemned by the African Union, UN and several other African countries as racist.