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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Nelson Mandela on Monday at his rural homestead where SA’s first black president is living out retirement far from the public eye.
Her private lunch with the Nobel Peace Prize winner was the first event of her SA visit, an indication of the prestige still enjoyed by the man who led the fight against white minority rule. The two chatted in his home ahead of the meal, an honour that few receive as Mandela’s health has become more fragile with age.
Mandela did not speak, but smiled as he and his wife Graca Machel posed for a picture with Clinton. “That’s a beautiful smile!” Clinton said.
“Madiba’s smile is a trademark,” Machel added.
Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, was the US president when Mandela took office as president. Their two families developed close ties, with Bill Clinton paying a visit to Qunu last month on the eve of Mandela’s 94th birthday.
A dozen police stood guard outside the homestead in Mandela’s village. Long accustomed to high-profile international guests, Clinton’s motorcade attracted little attention as it rolled through.
Hillary Clinton last met Mandela almost three years ago at his Johannesburg home, when she praised the influence that he had on her own life.
“It of course inspires in me an even greater admiration for his public work, but an even greater affection for the man,” she said.
While she was meeting Mandela, an American business delegation was holding a trade meeting with SA executives in Johannesburg.
Members of the American business delegation include senior executives from Black & Veatch, Boeing, Chevron, EMD/Caterpillar, FedEx Express, GE, Symbion, Trimble, Wal-Mart and Zanbato.
A trade mission also includes the heads of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export-Import Bank of the US, the US Trade and Development Agency, as well as Robert Hormats, under-secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, and Francisco Sanchez, under-secretary of commerce for international trade.
“South Africa is critically important to America’s commercial interests on the continent,” said Scott Eisner, vice-president of African Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce.
Clinton is scheduled to leave SA on Thursday for Nigeria. – Sapa-AFP