For­mer US am­bas­sador to SA re­flects on his time here and the road ahead un­der Trump

CityPress - - News -

“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.


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