The United States has reaffirmed its commitment to South Africa after Jessye Lapenn, its highest-ranking official at the embassy in Pretoria, was summoned to a meeting with the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco).
The summons came after US president Donald Trump made his infamous and racist comment that Africa, Haiti and El Salvador were “shithole” places whose migrants are not welcome in the US.
Lapenn is the deputy chief of the embassy, but is regarded as the highest ranking official because the US has still not appointed an ambassador to South Africa. In an interview with Radio 702 on Monday morning, Dirco’s deputy director general of public diplomacy Clayson Monyela said that a number of countries around the world did not have an ambassador from the US.
While Dirco had demanded that the US apologise for Trump’s remark, the statement the department released showed no indication that there was an apology.
Instead, Monyela said on Monday evening after the meeting concluded, that the partnership between the US and South Africa, and other African countries, remains intact.
“The United States Embassy and the United States Charge d’Affaires responded to the concerns of South Africa by stating that, ‘there has been no change in the United States’ dedication to our partners across the Continent’ and that ‘the United States deeply respects the people of Africa and the people of South Africa, and values its partnerships with them,’” Monyela said.
“Furthermore, it was reiterated that ‘relations between South Africa and the United States, and between the rest of Africa and the United States, must be based on mutual respect and understanding.’”
Trump denied that he had “said anything derogatory” about Haiti in a tweet following global outrage against his statement.
But he failed to respond to critics from the African continent and elsewhere who challenged him.
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JUST IN: statement from African Union mission to the USA re: President Trump’s ‘shithole’ comments, the mission ‘demand retraction and an apology to Africans around the world’ pic.twitter.com/G1tMSybuSa
— Samira Sawlani (@samirasawlani) January 12, 2018
The comments referred to here are abhorrent. He confirms a patronizing view of Africa and promotes a racist agenda. Africa/US relations will take strain from this, with a leader who has failed to reconcile humanity. The hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent https://t.co/Kq09tVu0Bo
— Mmusi Maimane (@MmusiMaimane) January 12, 2018
The African Union mission to the US also demanded that Trump’s statement be retracted and an apology be issued.
So far, neither Trump nor any other US officials have apologised. Monyela said that despite the lack of apology, the US was aware that Africans had played a significant role in their country.
“It was noted that Africa and the African diaspora has contributed significantly to the United States and to its development into the country that it is today,” Monyela said.