US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged South Africa to build on icon Nelson Mandela’s legacy and flex its growing influence on the global sticking points of Syria, Iran and Zimbabwe.
“The man who did so much to shape the history of a free South Africa has never stopped thinking about the future of South Africa,” she said in a speech at a Cape Town university.
“Because of your history, South Africa has an obligation to be a constructive force in the international community,” she added.
Washington’s top diplomat said strong African partners were needed to tackle the world’s challenges and urged the continent’s biggest economy to do more.
“There cannot be a strong global network unless there are strong African partners. Now I’ve often heard it said that African problems need African solutions. Well I’m here to say that some of our global problems need African solutions too,” said Clinton.
“And few nations on this continent can carry as much weight or be as effective partners and leaders as South Africa. You are a democratic power with the opportunity to influence Africa and the world.”
On her sixth stop on a continent-crossing mission, Clinton noted differences between Washington and Pretoria, particularly on recent conflicts in the Ivory Coast and Libya, but said this should not obscure common goals.
“We welcome South Africa’s support last week with the resolution at the UN General Assembly condemning Syria and the Assad regime’s brutal reign of terror,” she said.
“I hope this vote can be the foundation for a new level of cooperation.”
Clinton called on South Africa to lead efforts at the United Nations human rights council to protect global human rights.
“When old friends in power become corrupt and repressive, a decision by South Africa to stand on the side of freedom is not a sign that you are giving up on old allies, it’s a reminder to yourselves and the world that your values don’t stop at your borders.”
Drawing out neighbouring Zimbabwe, she urged leaders in the region to push for progress for new polls that will end a troubled powersharing deal that pulled the country out of election chaos five years ago.
“Now the same leaders can help accelerate progress for finalising and adopting that constitution through a credible referendum and holding a free and fair election monitored by the international community,” she said.
“And if Zimbabwe’s leaders meet these commitments, the United States is prepared to match action for action.”
The US has insisted that Zimbabwe take more steps to curb political violence before agreeing to ease sanctions against veteran President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle.
In a speech that blended praise and encouragement, Clinton called on South Africa to use its “rare authority” as the first country to have voluntarily given up its nuclear weapons to discourage armaments.
“You can help ensure that any country that pursues nuclear weapons programmes will invite only more pressure and isolation,” she said.
“This means South Africa can play an even greater role on issues like curbing Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons from preventing nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.”
Clinton reserved parts of her speech to pay homage to Mandela’s example of humanity by reaching out to his former apartheid jailers.
“That is the true legacy of president Mandela — calling all of us to complete the work he started. To overcome the obstacles, the injustices, the mistreatments that everyone, every one of us will encounter at some point in our lives.”
Earlier, she signed a new deal supporting efforts to fight AIDS in South Africa, which has the world’s biggest population of people with HIV.