U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and South African President Jacob Zuma .

The US has no intention of asking South Africa to permit the setting up of American military operating bases in the country, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said in Durban yesterday.

Addressing the media, after making a courtesy call on President Jacob Zuma, Clinton said there had been “no discussion” about extending the US’s Africom military command bases to South Africa. “This has never been raised by any of us in any of our discussions,” she said.

There had been intense speculation that Clinton — in South Africa as part of an 11- day continental tour — would lobby Zuma to allow for the setting up of the controversial military bases in South Africa.

Zuma said Clinton’s visit was aimed at improving relations between the US and South Africa, particularly in light of both nations having recently elected new administrations.

“We are taking that relationship to a higher level,” said Zuma.

Clinton said she and South Africa’s minister of international relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had the job of “putting the meat on the bones” of this relationship, after Zuma met US President Barack Obama at the G8 Summit in Italy.

Clinton said “very substantive” talks with Zuma had dealt with issues, including Zimbabwe, Sudan and Somalia — as well as ensuring that the two nations work more closely on cementing bilateral relations and meeting “regional and global challenges for the betterment of both nations and the world”.

However, they remained divided on the issue of Zimbabwe. Speaking to the press in Pretoria on Friday, Clinton voiced her dissatisfaction with South Africa’s “softly-softly” approach.

The US has called on South Africa to mitigate the negative influence of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe on the unity government. Clinton made it clear that the US would not resume aid to Zimbabwe unless there were proper mechanisms in place to ensure that it would reach the people and not finance the extravagant lifestyle of Zimbabwe’s political elite.

Diplomatic ties between South Africa and the US were at an all-time low after clashes between the administrations of former US president George W Bush and former South African president Thabo Mbeki on how best to deal with Zimbabwe.

At the same briefing in Pretoria, Nkoana-Mashabane told the media that there had been progress in Zimbabwe’s unity government. “It’s a forced marriage, but it’s working.”

Clinton’s next stop is Angola, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde.

Source: thetimes.co.za