Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Siyabonga, says Aristide in Jo’burg

Former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide began his stay in South Africa on Monday by thanking his hosts in Zulu for allowing him and his family to enter the country.

”Siyabonga,” said Aristide, who left Haiti in February amid growing civil unrest and opposition to his rule.

Earlier President Thabo Mbeki and a host of government ministers and diplomats gave him a high-powered, red-carpet welcome as they lined up on the tarmac of Johannesburg International airport to greet him.

He and his wife, Mildred, slowly made their way down the line, which included Minister of Defence Mosiuoa Lekota, Minister of Transport Jeff Radebe and Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, while his two small daughters, clutching little handbags, were quietly led away.

Before being whisked off to a press conference, Aristide walked over to greet a crowd of vuvuzela-blowing African National Congress supporters, who cheered in delight.

Mbeki said to Aristide: ”Welcome, indeed, to the African continent and to South Africa.”

In a quiet voice Aristide said that he and his family were grateful for the opportunity to thank Mbeki, the government and the people of South Africa for ”a new unforgettable chapter in African history”.

”Instead of Europe, we are welcome in Africa, our mother continent,” he said.

He said peace and stability must be restored in Haiti.

Aristide flew in from Jamaica, where he was living until he could find a country to accept him and his family.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad said in a statement on Monday that the Cabinet had received a formal request from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) through the chairperson of the African Union, Mozambique President Joachim Chissano, for South Africa to accommodate Aristide.

”The South African government has acceded to this request, in consultation with the AU, Caricom, the United States and France, to contribute to the international effort to bring peace and stability in Haiti,” said Pahad.

In March, South Africa called for a United Nations-led probe into the circumstances leading to Aristide’s departure, saying ”the suggestion that President Aristide may have been forced out of office, if true, will have serious consequences and ramifications for the respect of the rule of law and democracy the world over”.

South Africa agreed to give Aristide temporary asylum ”until his personal situation normalises” and he can return to Haiti. An interim government, however, has been installed and fresh elections are expected next year.

Mbeki was the only head of state to attend the bicentennial celebrations in Port-au-Prince over the new year — marking Haiti’s birth as the world’s first black republic, when slaves successfully rose up against French rule in 1804.

South Africa gave Haiti R10-million towards the cost of the celebrations, a move that was trenchantly criticised by South African opposition parties as a waste of public funds.

The former priest — who was first elected in 1990, then ousted in a coup in 1991 only to return to power with US military backing in 1994 — had said from the outset that he wanted to come to South Africa. — Sapa

Vote for an informed choice

We’re dropping the paywall this week so that everyone can access all our stories for free, and access the information they need in the run up to the local government elections. To follow the news, sign up to our daily elections newsletter for the latest updates and analysis.

If our coverage helps inform your decision, cast your vote for an informed public and join our subscriber community. Right now, you can a full year’s access for just R510. Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Jenni Evans
Guest Author

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Local elections 2021: A visual guide on what to expect

What are the biggest election issues where you live? M&G explains all

South Africa must approach its energy transition pragmatically

A sensible climate policy must balance the imperative of decarbonisation, socioeconomic policy and security of supply considerations

Steel strike: Workers struck while the iron was hot

After almost three weeks, labour and employers have reached a deal — setting the steel industry back on its path to recovery

Why handing over ICC suspects could help Sudan’s transition

A failed coup in September, weeks of brinkmanship, and a looming crisis in eastern Sudan have laid bare tensions between civilians and military leaders

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…