Rasool, New South African Ambassador's Opportunities To Strengthen Relations With US

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[Global: Africa]

In the next few weeks Former Western Cape Premier and member of the African National Congress National Committee, Mr. Ebrahim Rasool will present his credentials to the United States President Barrack Obama, as the new South African Ambassador to the United States.

According to the US Embassy in South Africa, Mr. Rasool’s preliminary background checks have not raised any questions or issues that warrant disqualification or rejection. We can therefore, safely assume that Mr. Rasool will be the next South African Ambassador to the United States of America.

Mr. Rasool will follow in the footsteps of some of his fellow public servants and “comrades” namely, Franklin Sonn, Sheila Sisulu, Barbara Masikela and Welile Nhlapo. All these committed public servants have done their best to strengthen US- SA Bilateral Relations, and advance South Africa’s interests in the United States.

As the South African government representative in the United States Mr. Rasool will immediately become an important member of the Diplomatic Community, and a leader within the African Diplomatic Corp.  As the new South African representative in Washington, DC he will wield enormous amount of power and influence that I am sure will be judiciously harnessed.

But most importantly, Mr. Rasool ascendance to this highly coveted diplomatic post presents an awesome opportunity for him to lead us in at least three very critical areas, that will fundamentally help to shape South Africa’s standing in the United States.

First, he will lead the South African team in the US-SA Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, which looks into regional and food security issues, health, law enforcement, trade, investment, energy and climate change. These are areas and issue that both countries share common concerns and agree on the fundamentals. There is general consensus on the need to reach practical and realistic solutions.

These sentiments were aptly expressed in a joint statement by US Ambassador in South Africa Donald Gips, and Deputy Director General for the Americas and Caribbean, Ambassador Nozipho Mxakato-Diseko, when they stated “our countries share many interests and aspirations for our people and the global community; it is both natural and productive for us to work together in realizing these goals. To echo our Presidents, ‘Together we can do more and Yes we can’”.

The second critical area, where Ambassador Rasool will have an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy while advancing South Africa’s socio-cultural interests in the US, is in people to people --civil society-- exchanges. Here I am specifically referring to our historic strategic partners and allies, representing faith groups, American Universities and colleges, labour unions, students and youth groups and former Anti-apartheid activists and leaders.

South Africa shares a very unique and special history with the American civil society; this was clearly demonstrated during the anti-apartheid struggle. This mosaic and major African American organizations are eager and anxious to re-engage democratic South Africa. 

Talking of African Americans groups and organizations, it will, in my opinion, be a worthwhile “investment” if Ambassador Rasool  makes a clear and direct appeal to them to rekindle the anti-apartheid fervour, and join us in this reconstruction process, which embodies the already stated goals. It is a well known fact that African Americans were at the heart of the Anti-Apartheid movement and they share an anthropological connection with South Africa, especially Black South Africans. 

By directly reaching out to them, the Ambassador, will finally address the lingering reservation, often overtly and subliminally expressed, amongst our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora. It should also be noted that apart from the obvious historic ties that binds us, the African American community, if properly marshalled, can become a viable and sustainable investment partner community given their enormous purchasing power and economic muscle. 

According to Target Market News’s 15h Annual Report on “the Buying Power of Black Americans” their total earned income is $803 billion, ranked the 17th amongst the economies of the world in comparable gross national income. In short, it is my humble opinion that by redefining and strengthening the people to people --civil society-- relationship between South Africans and Americans, Ambassador Rasool will not only buy into a lingering interest into the growth and development of South Africa, but would further that growth by attracting meaningful and unambiguous investment capital.

Third, our esteemed Ambassador must employ creative ways to reengage the South Africa expatriate community throughout the United States. The South African expatriate community in the United States are a seriously untapped and under utilized resource that can aid in advancing South African interests in the US.  Unfortunately, there is a troubling perception amongst many of my peers in the expatriate community that our Embassy, Missions and Consulates throughout the United States are either not seriously interested in inviting us to join the “Proudly South African Team” or have exerted little effort at including us.   I respectfully submit that by setting a new tone, taking a page out of former Ambassador Sheila Sisulu’s lobbying and mobilization book, Ambassador Rasool will succeed in utilizing the wide birth of skills and expertise we have acquired during our sojourn in North America. 

For the past seven months we have not had an Ambassador in the United States. However, the Embassy, under the capable leadership of our Deputy Chief of Missions Johnny Moloto has done its best to represent our country’s interest.  But it is time for our Ambassador to take his rightful place amongst his peers.

I am sure I speak for many in the diplomatic and South African expatriate community, especially those of us who remain actively involved in promoting South African interests in the US, in saying that we welcome you and look forward to working with you as we proudly wave our rainbow flag, and blow our World Cup success inspired vuvuzela to herald a new diplomatic era that would reinforce pride, growth and development in South Africa.

Kennedy S. Khabo, is the President/CEO of Khabo Mabe On Time, US based South African interest group, founder and organizer of the Annual South Africa Week in Washington, DC and USA Week in South Africa

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