- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 9, 2009

CAPE TOWN, South Africa | At a housing project for the homeless she once visited as first lady, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton basked in the cheers and a serenade from an adoring crowd Saturday and pronounced U.S.-South African ties on the mend after years of strain.

Mrs. Clinton was in her element as she worked rope lines at the project on the outskirts of Cape Town that she had toured by herself in 1997 and then again in 1998 with her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, in tow to see the progress.

At a second development, a smiling Mrs. Clinton helped clear some rubble from a construction site and planted flowers and a tree outside an unfinished home.

“This is what I really believe in,” she said. “I mean, I have traveled literally all over the world, and when people organize themselves and are given the tools and the training to really empower themselves and their future and build houses and communities, that’s what’s lasting.”

Mrs. Clinton arrived in Cape Town on the Atlantic Coast from the capital, Pretoria, and the Indian Ocean port of Durban, where she met Saturday with the new South African president, Jacob Zuma, on a mission to improve the United States’ relationship with Africa’s most prosperous nation.

President Obama is eager to remake a relationship that had suffered during the Bush administration due to differences with former South African President Thabo Mbeki’s government over the cause and treatment of AIDS and the crisis in Zimbabwe.

“In both countries there are two new administrations which are taking that relationship a level higher. That is what we are trying to do,” Mr. Zuma told reporters after a 45-minute meeting.

Mrs. Clinton said she would be working with South Africa’s foreign minister “to put meat on the bone, to get to work to make sure the expectations of President Zuma and President Obama are met.”

Mrs. Clinton said the U.S. is “very supportive of South Africa playing even more of a leadership role” on regional issues of insecurity and conflict resolution as well as global issues such as climate change and nuclear proliferation.

“We are going to get to work on all of that,” she said.

After leaving the housing project, Mrs. Clinton met with South Africa’s last apartheid-era president, F.W. de Klerk. She met the country’s revered anti-apartheid leader, former President Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg on Friday. The South Africans share a Nobel Peace Prize for their role in ending apartheid.

South Africa is the second of seven African nations Mrs. Clinton is visiting on an 11-day tour of the continent. From South Africa, Mrs. Clinton planned to leave Sunday for the oil-rich nation of Angola. She also will stop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia and Cape Verde. Kenya was the first county the secretary visited.

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