Written by Genevieve Quintal – SAPA
United States of America president Barack Obama could have done more for the African continent especially because of his African descent, President Jacob Zuma said in Washington on Monday.
“[This African descent] has made him tread very carefully and I think that is a reality,” he told a National Press Club (NPC) luncheon.
“I believe he could have done more, but I think he was always aware of this fact and therefore he has navigated that situation very well.”
Zuma was fielding questions on a range of issues after addressing the NPC. A question was asked about whether Obama met Zuma’s expectations in his dealings with the African continent. Zuma also answered questions about the conflict in Gaza, Ebola, Brics and South Africa’s economy.
He was asked whether he agreed with the African National Congress’s call for the Israeli ambassador in South Africa to be expelled. “As you know there was demonstration in South Africa where the call was made… I think as a free country, a country with free expression people indicated how they felt and made that call,” he said.
“But we believe recalling an ambassador is not a simple matter.”
Zuma said South Africa had experience it could offer to Israel and Palestine and did not want to do anything that could prevent the country from helping.
“We believe that — and we have offered this to both sides — that we come from a conflict that nobody else ever thought would be resolved [apartheid]… We resolved it and we are better off.”
Earlier, Zuma told a US Chamber of Commerce business forum that South Africa was outraged by violence in the region. He said there would never be a military solution to the problem and urged both sides to sit and talk so that they could arrive at an internationally agreed solution of two states.
During the NPC luncheon Zuma was asked how Ebola was affecting South Africa and what it was doing to make sure it did not spread south.
“South Africa is in no risk so far. Ebola I think has been around for a long time in other parts of the continent. It has never come down to the south,” he said.
“Of course South Africa is working together with all health institutions in the continent to address the problem but there is no imminent risk to South Africa.
Zuma reiterated during the luncheon that South Africa was open for business and ready for more US investment in the country.
A South African delegation, led by Zuma, were in the US capital attending a US-Africa summit, initiated by Obama.
(Flight and hotel costs for Sapa’s reporter covering the summit were paid by the SA presidency)