Donald Trump’s famously, er, candid way of speaking is increasingly having real diplomatic consequences.
Late last week, the US president reportedly referred to several nations, and all of Africa, as “shitholes.” Since then, statements criticizing him have been rolling in. The African Union expressed “shock, dismay, and outrage.” Botswana asked for a clarification and called his comment “reprehensible and racist.”
Now South Africa is joining the chorus. An official statement from the country’s department of foreign relations calls the comment “crude and offensive,” and demands an explanation. The country is further expected to issue an official diplomatic protest to the American embassy there, according to CNN.
South Africa’s involvement is a sign that even large countries with more diplomatic weight, and more at stake with their US relations, are finding it hard to give Trump a free pass. Botswana’s courage is admirable, but it is a smaller nation (at least in terms of population). South Africa is the third-largest economy in Africa, the fifth-largest in terms of population, and a close ally of the United States. The government of oil-rich Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has remained silent on the “shithole” issue.
Top American diplomats in South Africa have been summoned to meet with leaders there today, the CNN report said. Here is the full statement from South Africa’s diplomats.
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14 January 2018
Government to demarche US embassy official
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) will on Monday, 15 January 2017, demarche the Charges de Affaires (the second in charge) of the Embassy of the United States of America in Pretoria following the recent disturbing comments attributed to President Donald Trump.
The Department will provide an opportunity to the Charges de Affaires to explain the statement that African countries, alongside Haiti and El Savador [sic], constitute “shitholes” from where migrants into the United States are undesirable.
The Department has noted President Trump’s tweet on Friday, 12 January 2018, in which he denies making the crude and offensive statement. The Department has noted further that President Trump’s denial was not categorical, referring only to Haiti and not addressing the entirety of the statement attributed to him.
South Africa aligns itself with the statements issued by the African Union and the Africa group of Ambassadors to the United Nations in New York. Africa is united in its affirmation of the dignity of the people of Africa and the African diaspora.
Relations between South Africa and the United States, and between the rest of Africa and the United States, must be based on mutual respect and understanding.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION