with South African President Thabo Mbeki
Pretoria, South Africa
July 9, 2003
11:47 A.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT MBEKI: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome. I'm very
pleased, indeed, to welcome President Bush and his delegation, Mrs. Bush and
young Barbara. We are very pleased, indeed, Mr. President, that you were able
to come. It's very important for us because of the importance of the United
States to our future, and the United States to the future of our continent.
We've had very good discussions with the President, able to cover quite
a wide field. We're very pleased with the development of the bilateral relations,
strong economic links, growing all the time. Continued attention by the U.S.
corporate world on South Africa is very critically important for us. AGOA
has had a very big impact in terms of the development of our economy. And
we continue to work on all of these matters.
It also gave us a chance to convey our thanks to the President for the support
with regards to meeting the African continental challenges. That includes
questions of peace and security, the NEPAD processes. Again, very important
for the future of our continent. That, of course, also gave an opportunity
to discuss some of the specific areas of conflict around the continent.
I must say, President, that at the end of these discussions, we, all of
us, feel enormously strengthened by your very, very firm and clear commitment
to assist us to meet the challenges that we've got to meet domestically and
on the African continent. And, therefore, President, thank you very much,
indeed, for coming. We -- the visit will certainly result in strengthened
bilateral relations and strengthened cooperation to meet these other challenges
that we face together.
But, welcome, President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, thanks. Gosh, we're honored to be here. Thank
you for your wonderful hospitality. Thank Mrs. Mbeki, as well, for her gracious
hospitality. It's a pleasure to be in South Africa.
Your nation's recent history is a great story of courage and persistence
in the pursuit of justice. This is a country that threw off oppression and
is now the force of freedom and stability, and a force for progress throughout
the continent of Africa.
I appreciate our strong relationship -- and it is a vital relationship.
Mr. President, I want to thank you very much for working hard to make it
a vital and strong relationship. We've met quite a few times in the recent
past, and every time we've met I've -- I feel refreshed and appreciate very
much your advice and counsel and your leadership.
I appreciate the President's dedication to openness and accountability.
He is advancing these principles in the New Partnership for African Development.
He's a leader in that effort. The President and I believe that the partnership
can help extend democracy and free markets and transparency across the continent
President Mbeki has shown great leadership in this initiative, and our country
will support the leaders who accept the principles of reform, and we'll work
with them. So thank you, Mr. President.
South Africa is playing a critical role in promoting regional security in
Africa, and we discussed the President's leadership, for example, in Burundi.
South Africa has helped achieve the peaceful inauguration of a new President.
Or in the Congo, South Africa brokered an agreement on the creation of a
transitional government. And in Zimbabwe, I've encouraged President Mbeki
and his government to continue to work for the return of democracy in that
I also discussed with the President the importance of the continued cooperation
in the global war on terror. The United States and South Africa are working
together to strengthen this nation's border security and law enforcement.
And we're devoting $100 million to help countries in eastern Africa increase
their counter-terror efforts. We are determined to fight, and to join our
friends to fight, terrorists throughout this continent and throughout the
We're also committed to helping African nations achieve peace. In Liberia,
the United States strongly supports the cease-fire agreement signed last
month. President Taylor needs to leave Liberia so that his country can be
spared further grief and bloodshed. Yesterday, I talked with President Kufour
of Ghana who leads ECOWAS. I shared with the President our conversation.
I assured him the United States will work closely with ECOWAS and the United
Nations to maintain the cease-fire and to enable a peaceful transfer of power.
We're also pressing forward to help end Africa's long-running civil war
in Sudan. My Special Envoy, Senator Jack Danforth, is returning to the region.
We're making progress there. His message is that there's only one option
and that's going to be peace. And his efforts are making good progress.
The President also discussed our action to combat HIV/AIDS. South Africa
has recently increased its budget to fight the disease, and we noticed and
we appreciate that. America is now undertaking a major new effort to help
governments and private groups combat AIDS. Over the next five years, we
will spend $15 billion in the global fight against AIDS. People across Africa
had the will to fight this disease, but often not the resources. And the
United States of America is willing to put up the resources to help in the
We're committed to helping the people of Africa defeat hunger. We provided
more than 500,000 metric tons of food aid to Southern Africa over the past
18 months. This year we'll provide nearly $1 billion to address food emergencies.
We care when we see people who are hungry. We look forward to working with
Mr. President to alleviate suffering.
We're also working to expand trade, which I believe is the key to Africa's
economic future. The African Growth and Opportunity Act is creating jobs
and stimulating investment across the continent. Right here in South Africa,
exports to the United States under AGOA have increased by 45 percent in the
last year alone, significant progress. We're working with five nations of
the Southern African Customs Union on a free trade agreement to help expand
the circle of prosperity even wider.
Mr. President, our countries have many common interests. We also share a
fundamental commitment to the spread of peace and human rights and liberty.
By working in close partnership, we're serving both the interests of the
people of South Africa and the United States.
I want to thank you for your friendship, appreciate the hospitality. It's
been a great honor to be in your country.
PRESIDENT MBEKI: Thank you very much, President.
I understand that two U.S. journalists and two South African journalists
will pose some questions. John.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. I'd like to direct the question to both Presidents.
And it does concern the issue of HIV/AIDS and the $15 billion grant. Did
you manage to reach some kind of understanding or consensus on the issue
of how South Africa will access that money, on what terms South Africa will
be able to access that money?
And, President Bush, did you give you any undertakings in terms of using
your influence to ensure that there will be cheaper access -- access to cheaper
drugs and medicines?
And to President Mbeki, sir, did you --
PRESIDENT MBEKI: How many questions --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, I was going to say -- (laughter.)
QUESTION: This is the last part.
PRESIDENT BUSH: This is the ultimate five-part question. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Did you give any undertaking in terms of the running out of the national
treatment plan? Thank you.
PRESIDENT MBEKI: Well, as the President had indicated, we did, indeed, discuss
this. The situation is that we received a request from the U.S. government
to say, can we make proposals as to how to access the fund, for what purposes
-- a program, a program that we would present. So we are working on that.
We want to respond to that request from the United States government as quickly
as is possible. We will do that, and convey it. So it will be out of that
process of discussion that will result, out of that proposal between the
U.S. government and ourselves, that then will come a program, particular
concrete kind of action, with the necessary costing when we get to that stage.
So that's where we are.
So the matter will be discussed in that way. And as President Bush had indicated
in our discussions, that of course, the U.S. government is taking a comprehensive
approach to this, which would, therefore, include questions of awareness,
questions of health infrastructure, questions of treatment and so on. So
we will look at the totality of those and in the proposal that we would make.
PRESIDENT BUSH: We just named Tobias to be the Ambassador, nominated him
to be the Ambassador, and he's, upon confirmation, will be working with the
countries such as South Africa to develop a strategy -- is what we need,
we need a common-sense strategy to make sure that the money is well spent.
And the definition of well-spent means lives are saved, which means good
treatment programs, good prevention programs, good programs to develop health
infrastructures in remote parts of different countries so that we can actually
get anti-retroviral drugs to those who need help.
The cost of anti-retroviral drugs has dropped substantially. But we did
talk about the pharmaceutical union in a broader context. As you may know,
the United States supported a moratorium on the enforcement of patent laws
concerning those drugs related to diseases that were causing pandemics. And
we will continue to work with South Africa, as well as other countries, to
see if we can't reach a common-sense policy that, on the one hand, protects
intellectual property rights, and on the other hand, makes life-saving drugs
or treatment drugs for, in some cases, life-saving, in some cases that are
proper for treatment more widely available at reasonable costs.
But one reason I felt emboldened to ask the Congress for a substantial amount
of new money for the AIDS initiative was because of the cost of anti-retrovirals,
and it's significantly lower than it was a couple of years ago.
So we're making good progress. And I look forward to working with the President
on putting together a sound strategy that saves lives. That's what our country
is interested in. We're interested in dealing with this pandemic in a practical
Tom. But whatever you do, don't fall into that bad habit of asking both
of us three or four questions. (Laughter.) How about keeping it to one.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you have an assessment team in Liberia now to help you
decide whether to send in U.S. troops as part of a peacekeeping effort.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right.
QUESTION: U.S. troops are getting shot at increasingly in Iraq every day. We have
troops in Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Korea. What do you say to critics
who suggest that our forces may be spread too thinly now to engage in further
And to President Mbeki, do you think that the United States should play
a more active role in peacekeeping, specifically in Liberia?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first, my answer to people is that we won't over-extend
our troops, period.
Secondly, we have made a commitment that we will work closely with the United
Nations and ECOWAS to enforce the cease-fire, see to it that Mr. Taylor leaves
office, so that there can be a peaceful transition in Liberia. We've made
that commitment. I've said it clearly more than one time. Like yesterday
in Senegal, for example. So nothing has changed from about 12 hours ago on
We do have assessment teams there to assess what is necessary to help with
the transition. And the President brought up the question and he can answer
it his own way. But he asked whether or not we'd be involved and I said,
yes, we'll be involved. And we're now determining the extent of our involvement.
PRESIDENT MBEKI: Yes, certainly, we discussed this question with the President
many years ago and agreed that it's critically important that we, as Africans,
should, indeed, take responsibility for the future of peace and stability
on the continent. So that is a principal obligation that falls on us as Africans.
So as you would know, the West African states, ECOWAS, have agreed to send
in troops into Liberia. And they are trying to move that process forward
as quickly-- as quickly as is possible.
We appreciate very much the point that was just made by the President of
the commitment of the United States to lend support -- the assessment teams
are there to assess that -- to lend support to those processes, processes
of restoration of peace, making sure people don't starve, making sure that
there's a restoration of democracy in Liberia.
So the U.S. will cooperate with the American troops that will go there.
So it's not -- we're not saying that this is a burden that just falls on
the United States. It really ought to principally fall on us as Africans.
Of course, we need a lot of support, logistics wise and so on, to do that,
but the will is there.
PRESIDENT BUSH: One quick follow-up on that -- violating of the one-answer
policy. (Laughter.) I think our money has helped train seven battalions of
peacekeepers amongst African troops. And it's a sensible policy for us to
continue that training mission, so that we never do get over-extended.
And so one of the things you'll see us do is invigorate this -- re-invigorate
the strategy of helping people help themselves by providing training opportunities.
I think we've trained five Nigerian battalions, if I'm not mistaken, one
Senegalese. So we've got -- but it's in our interest that we continue that
strategy, Tom, so that we don't ever get overextended.
PRESIDENT MBEKI: Thanks. Jimmy.
QUESTION: During the past week, the two Presidents or the governments of -- the
government of the U.S. and South Africa have expressed sharp differences
about the best way to deal with the Zimbabwen question.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes.
QUESTION: And having met this morning, I wonder if the two Presidents have found
the best approach or have agreed about the best approach to deal with Zimbabwe.
I see that it is has come up. Can we get from the smiles that you now have
a formula to deal best with Zimbabwe? (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT MBEKI: I didn't know, President, that we'd expressed sharp differences.
PRESIDENT BUSH: That's right. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT MBEKI: No. We are absolutely of one mind, the two governments,
President Bush and myself are absolutely of one mind about the urgent need
to address the political and economic challenges of Zimbabwe. It's necessary
to resolve this matter as quickly as is possible.
We have said, as you would know, for a long time that the principle is rooted,
principal responsibility for the resolution of these problems rests with
the people of Zimbabwe; and, therefore, have urged them -- both the ruling
party and the opposition, the government and the opposition -- to get together
and seriously tackle all of these issues.
I did tell the President that, indeed, the government -- Zanu-PF and the
MDC are, indeed, discussing. They are engaged in discussions on all of the
matters that would be relevant to the resolution of these political and economic
problems. So that process is going on. We have communicated the message to
both sides that -- indeed, as we agreed with the President -- that it is
very, very important that they should move forward with urgency to find a
resolution to these questions.
Of course, again, as the President was saying, was saying that apart from
these important political issues about democrats and so on, you actually
have ordinary people who are hungry in an economy which can't cope with them,
and you can't allow that kind of situation to go on forever. So they are
We had discussed this matter earlier, sometime back, with the U.S. government
that we have to find, we've got to find a way of getting a political solution
and we would, indeed, count very much on such economic, financial support
as would come from the United States afterwards, in order to address urgent
challenges that face Zimbabwe.
So we didn't fight about any of what I've just said. (laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: We were smiling because we were certain a clever reporter
would try to use the Zimbabwe issue as a way to maybe create tensions which
Look, Zimbabwe is an important country for the economic health of Africa.
A free, peaceful Zimbabwe has got the capacity to deliver a lot of goods
and services which are needed on this continent in order to help alleve suffering.
And it's a very sad situation that's taken place in that country.
Look, we share the same objective. The President is the person most involved;
he represents a mighty country in the neighborhood who, because of his position
and his responsibility, is working the issue. And I'm not -- not any intention
of second-guessing his tactics. We share the same outcome. And I think it's
important for the United States, whether it be me or my Secretary of State,
to speak out when we see a situation where somebody's freedoms have been
taken away from them and they're suffering. And that's what we're going to
continue to do.
But the President is the point man on this important subject. He is working
it very hard. He's in touch with the parties involved. He is -- he's making
-- he believes, making good progress. And the United States supports him
in this effort.
Last question. Randy.
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. President. Do you regret that your State of the Union accusation
that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa is now fueling charges
that you and Prime Minister Blair misled the public? And then, secondly,
following up on Zimbabwe, are you willing to have a representative meet with
a representative of the Zimbabwe opposition leader, who sent a delegation
here, and complained that he did not think Mr. Mbeki could be an honest broker
in the process?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I think Mr. Mbeki can be an honest broker, to answer
the second question.
The first question is, look, there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein
was a threat to the world peace. And there's no doubt in my mind that the
United States, along with allies and friends, did the right thing in removing
him from power. And there's no doubt in my mind, when it's all said and done,
the facts will show the world the truth. There's absolutely no doubt in my
mind. And so there's going to be a lot of attempts to try to rewrite history,
and I can understand that. But I am absolutely confident in the decision
QUESTION: Do you still believe they were trying to buy nuclear materials in Africa?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right now?
QUESTION: No, were they? The statement you made --
PRESIDENT BUSH: One thing is for certain, he's not trying to buy anything
right now. If he's alive, he's on the run. And that's to the benefit of the
Iraqi people. But, look, I am confident that Saddam Hussein had a weapons
of mass destruction program. In 1991, I will remind you, we underestimated
how close he was to having a nuclear weapon. Imagine a world in which this
tyrant had a nuclear weapon. In 1998, my predecessor raided Iraq, based upon
the very same intelligence. And in 2003, after the world had demanded he
disarm, we decided to disarm him. And I'm convinced the world is a much more
peaceful and secure place as a result of the actions.