The gifts SA gave US presidentsComment on this story
Cape Town - Brandy from the Western Cape was one of the 17 gifts South African presidents and foreign ministers gave their US counterparts over the past 12 years - but the brandy was considered a “consumable” and may never have made it to the US archives like most other gifts.
This week, US President Barack Obama probably received several gifts from African countries who attended the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.
Obama invited all but Zimbabwe, Sudan, Central African Republic and Eritrea to the summit.
On Thursday, President Jacob Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj could not say what South Africa had as a gift during his current visit to the US.
But there is a list of 17 gifts South African dignitaries gave to the US between 2002 and 2012.
The US keeps meticulous records of every gift Obama, his family and government members received from dignitaries from foreign countries.
The US accepted all the gifts as it noted that “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donors and the US government”.
It is all declared with the protocol gift unit in the State Department of the US government. Most of the time, these gifts end up in the US’s different archives, after their value is estimated and measurements are taken.
The most intriguing gifts Obama has received were a silver Aztec calendar from Mexico, a ping pong table from the UK that was made in China, and a Blu-ray Disc set in a wooden box from Russia.
South Africa had been more generous with gifts during Zuma’s first term than during Thabo Mbeki or Nelson Mandela’s presidencies.
The most memorable recent gifts were:
* A Special Olympic torch in 2011 valued at $470 (about R5 000);
* Clay pots and Zulu ceramic urns made by artists Thembi Nala and Clive Sithole;
* A tribal heritage collection chess set with 32 ceramic chess pieces and a wooden board; and
* Six Zulu phone-wire plate chargers.
Zuma gave the chargers to Hillary Clinton, then the US secretary of state, during her visit here in September 2009.
Clinton got permission to retain the chargers for “official use only”.
In 2011, First Lady Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma gave a list of gifts to Michelle Obama during her visit to South Africa, including a wooden-framed embroidery piece on white textile, depicting two people, one with a smoking pipe. Also among the gifts were a platter and a set of four matching bowls.
In 2003, Mbeki gave George W Bush 25-year-old brandy from the Western Cape.