How do South Africans feel about America?

US interest in South Africa

As the most important regional power on the "black continent", South Africa is an important contact and hope for the USA when it comes to fighting terrorism and resolving regional conflicts. Nevertheless, relations between a superpower like the USA and a regional power like South Africa are not always free of conflict. "The Iraq crisis put a heavy strain on bilateral relations between the two countries," reports Steve Morisson, head of the Africa department at the "Center for Strategic and International Studies" (CSIS) in Washington. "The reaction to the war in South Africa in general and at the top of the ANC has been extremely negative."

Is it just a strategic interest?

For Wiliam Mintner, editor of the magazine "Africa Focus" in Washington, the American interest in South Africa is only weak and shaped mainly by the self-interests of the superpower. "The US conducts its business in South Africa, they exert pressure to safeguard their economic interests in the Cape, and they are trying to encourage South Africa to do peacekeeping in large parts of the region," he explains. "As far as the real problems of South Africa are concerned, there is little interest among decision-makers in politics, let alone in the media or the wider public." These problems are anything but trivial.

Cardinal problem AIDS

With an infection rate of around 20 percent of the population and an estimated five million AIDS sufferers, the immunodeficiency disease is one of the most pressing future problems in South Africa. In early 2003, President Bush promised to provide $ 15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean over the next five years . This year alone, the US Congress has approved funds totaling 2.4 billion US dollars, and next year it should be almost three billion.

For Steve Morrison, this is clear evidence that the United States is very interested in South Africa and the future of the black continent. "During President Clinton's eight-year tenure, the average US contribution to the international fight against AIDS was $ 130 million," he recalls. "2.4 to 2.8 or 2.9 billion is a significant expansion of our anti-AIDS commitment." The European contribution to the fight against AIDS, on the other hand, is rather modest.

Critics of President Bush's administration see it differently. William Mintner, for example, accuses her of undermining the international efforts of multilateral organizations to fight AIDS. "The US government has blocked the recommendations of the World Health Organization on the use of cheap AIDS drugs by generic drug manufacturers in favor of US patents," reports Mintner. "With the announced 'emergency aid', which is another year in coming, far fewer people can be treated than would be possible with generic drugs."

The fight against terror

A yardstick for the quality of the bilateral relationship in Washington is always the joint fight against terrorism and the efforts of the respective partner in global crisis prevention. The superpower USA is also more dependent than ever on regional partners. One expects a lot from South Africa because the "black continent" is still peppered with trouble spots. "The US's new security strategy explicitly names South Africa as a strategic partner," says Morisson. "In the meantime, however, Washington has understood that the country cannot be burdened with too much."

South Africa has an army of only 75,000 men - the country cannot provide more than 3,000 soldiers for peace keeping. The common fight against terrorism is primarily about preventing Central Africa from sinking into chaos. In Burundi there was good diplomatic cooperation in overcoming the crisis. Now the US expects South Africa to put more pressure on Zimbabwe: President Mugabe's aggressive action against the white settlers threatens to plunge the country more and more into chaos.