Former US ambassador to SA reflects on his time here and the road ahead under Trump
“I have been in South Africa in the most momentous period since 1994,” he said.
“Your institutions have been challenged, your political system has been turned over every which way, and yet, here we are at a point where the entire nation celebrated the affirmation of your values and your fundamental principles that your Constitutional Court ruled on.”
Without spelling it out, Gaspard referred to the ruling earlier this year compelling President Jacob Zuma to pay back some of the money spent on upgrades to his Nkandla home, following the Public Protector’s report.
“It was also in a moment when some serious questions were being asked about the sustainability of the education system because of the provocative nature of demonstrations from young people.
“On top of all of that, we’ve seen a renewed civil society act in a way that not only revolves around politics, but around real issues.”
Gaspard, who was a trade unionist, healthcare activist and political campaign guru before he arrived in Pretoria, is an activist by heart. He has the irrepressible optimism of a fighter of difficult causes.
Both his arrival and departure were marked by less glorious moments in US history. The US government shutdown over President Barack Obama’s contentious healthcare plan ended the same day Gaspard received his diplomatic credentials from Zuma in Pretoria. Now, there’s president-elect Donald Trump. Gaspard is seasoned enough not to have wept like many of his embassy staff at a function on results night last month.
RELATIONS UNDER TRUMP