US ambassador bids farewell

2016-06-30 19:19
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Johannesburg - United States ambassador Patrick Gaspard has bid a provisional farewell to South Africa at the last Independence Day celebrations he would preside over during his posting in Pretoria.

Gaspard's term will come to an end when President Barack Obama leaves office in January next year. North American ambassadors are political appointments.

Despite rumours among diplomats that he would help Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton run her campaign, embassy sources denied knowledge of this.

Gaspard, who has been ambassador in South Africa since August 2013, told a crowd of diplomats, business people and other influencers at his official home in Pretoria on Thursday that, despite some spats, America and South Africa could always sit around a table to resolve disputes.

Gaspard said he was watching the South African local government elections in August keenly, because he felt strongly about this sphere of government as being close to the people.

Gaspard said the US could learn from South Africa's work on "equal access to justice and freedom and liberty every day".

Good example of democracy

He said in the US, "a country that I'm a radical patriot of", a larger percentage of the black population is in prison at the moment than in South Africa at the height of apartheid.

He also assured South Africans that the US would continue to be a good example of democracy, irrespective of what happened during the elections.

"Freedom has to be worked on, and worked on and agitated for, which is exactly why I feel a need at this moment to assure my South African family that the United States of America will continue to be that beacon of aspirational democracy irrespective of the rabid fever that the election cycle is in now, and you can trust we will never allow the politics of performance to trump the politics of principle.

"I know that that will continue to be true in South Africa as well, as we continue... the immortal command of Chief Albert Luthuli, who reminded us that we must always join hands and stand up against forces that create a climate that is inimical to the development of community, inimical to the development of individuals, forces that are determined to deny the spark of human dignity and the divine that is within us."

Gaspard is a member and activist in the Democratic Party in the US, and would be opposed to a presidency under Republican favourite Donald Trump.

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