Mbeki defends R10m donation to Haiti

President Thabo Mbeki said it was proper that South Africa had donated R10-million to help with Haiti’s 200th anniversary of independence celebrations, and he said those who would criticise the action “don’t know anything about the bicentennial”.

“The history of Haiti was never taught in South African schools,” he said. “We learned about Haiti because we ourselves were involved in a struggle for liberation… We agreed with the government of Haiti that the bicentennial was important and that it is necessary that all Africans should celebrate.”

At a news conference on Tuesday after the conclusion of talks with top officials in the Bahamas, Mbeki pledged renewed cooperation in areas from trade to Aids research between the Bahamas and South Africa.

Mbeki told Bahamian journalists on Monday that he plans to meet with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as well as his opponents during government-sponsored celebrations marking Haiti’s 200th anniversary of independence from France.

Mbeki said he would listen to what both sides say and “respond to whatever they might ask of us”.

The South African president began his tour to the Caribbean with his arrival in the Bahamas on Sunday. During talks, officials said the two countries agreed to pursue closer ties in trade and education, and to share information on Aids research.

South Africa and the Bahamas established diplomatic relations in 1994, the same year South Africa ended apartheid.

Standing beside Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie on Tuesday, Mbeki thanked the former British colony for its solidarity against apartheid and said it’s important to ensure “sustained and continued contact between the two countries.” - Sapa-AP

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