Today: March 28

Today, President Clinton travels to Johannesburg, South Africa. While inJohannesburg, the President participates in several events, including:

Visit to the Ron Brown Commercial Center

Wreath Laying and Tour of the Hector Peterson Memorial

Round Table Discussion on the Future with Young Leaders

Ron Brown Commercial Center Visit

President Clinton visits the Ron Brown Commercial Center, located in themost vibrant business district in greater Johannesburg. The center willprovide support for American companies looking to enter or expand into thesub-Saharan African market. It is one of only four Commercial Centersestablished worldwide. (The other centers are located in Shanghai, Jakartaand Sao Paolo.)

The Department of Commerce's Commercial Service office in Johannesburg hasalready become a focal point for regional outreach to the 12 countries ofthe Southern African Development Community. The Creation of a commercialcenter enhances export promotion by offering a range of support programsthat can be tailored to help almost any U.S. company enter the market. TheCommercial Center will also serve as a vehicle for other agencies such asExim, TDA, USTR and USAID's business-related activities.

The Commercial Center site, a neo-classical stand-alone building on a maincommercial artery in Illovo, was selected for its accessibility andvisibility. In 1997, the building was dedicated to the memory and work ofthe late Ron Brown. The Center is staffed by three Foreign CommercialService officers, an American administrator and 17 local staff. The Centercontains several conference rooms, as well as a large multipurpose roomthat can seat 75 and will be used by U.S. companies for conferences andproduct demonstrations. An internet-linked commercial information resourcecenter is staffed to answer trade-related queries from U.S. and Africanbusinesses and will serve as a repository for economic and commercialreports from State Department officers stationed throughout Africa. TheCommercial Center also houses 3 offices for partner organizations --currently, one is occupied by a trade promotion office for the State ofMichigan.

Wreath Laying and Tour of Hector Peterson Memorial

The President tours the Hector Peterson Memorial, located in Orlando West,in Soweto, the largest township in South Africa. It memorializes thestruggle that began in 1976 when Soweto youths protested against theexclusive use of Afrikaans in public schools. The Hector Peterson Memorialcontains an exhibition of photographs taken from that time, photos thatwere, in many instances, smuggled out of South Africa to be developedoverseas for fear of discovery.

The Soweto Heritage Trust now owns the land on which the Hector PetersonMemorial stands. The Trust was formed by local leaders to preserve thehistory and lessons learned in Soweto, and to promote the growth anddevelopment of the township. The Trust views the Hector Peterson Memorialas a key piece of its economic development project. They plan to use theMemorial, and its key location inside Soweto near the Mandela House, as adraw for tourism and the growth of local business.

Round Table Discussion on the Future with Young Leaders

The President meets with young leaders at the Maphanzela [MAH-pahn-zel-ah]Primary School in the Thokoza [tuh-KOH-za] township. The school straddleswhat was, until recently, a war zone in a violent sectarian struggle forpolitical control between the African National Congress (ANC) and theInkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The violence peaked in the run-up to the 1994parliamentary elections when Thokoza became one of the most violent areasin South Africa. Black-on-black violence between predominantlyZulu-speaking IFP supporters and predominantly Xhosa-speaking supporters ofthe ANC left hundreds dead and thousands homeless.

Armed IFP youth formed para-military Self-Protection Units (SPUs), whiletheir ANC counterparts formed Self-Defense Units (SDUs) to defend areasunder their control. As the violence escalated, several areas in thetownship, such as Khumalo Street, became "no-go" areas. A person of thewrong political affiliation found in a "no-go" area risked being killed.

In this tense climate, R.P. Maphanzela school had to be vacated for severalmonths in late 1993 because of its location near Buthelezi Street -- theboundary separating ANC and IFP-controlled strongholds along KhumaloStreet. The school's students (who came from families supporting each ofthe opposing parties) continued to attend classes at alternative locations.

Today, Thokoza is a model of reconciliation. No incidents of politicalviolence have been reported in over two years. Maphanzela School helpedcreate the climate for the peace that has gradually returned to thistroubled township. In early 1994, the provincial leadership of the ANC andIFP, in conjunction with church and community groups, came together torestore peace to the area, beginning with Maphanzela School, which resumedclasses at its current location in February 1994. For several monthsthereafter, students were the only people who could travel across theKhumala Street dividing line without risk of being killed.

Following the elections in April 1994, these same groups worked hard toextend the peace beyond the school to the broader community. The SPUs andSDUs were demobilized and many of their members incorporated into the SouthAfrican Police Service as part of the "Simunye" [we-ARE-one] initiative.Anyone can now travel the length of Khumalo Street without fear, andMaphanzela school has lost its special status as the only neutral zone forchildren of ANC and IFP partisans.


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