Monday, August 10, 2009
Meet Mrs Balls herself
Now that I have finally entered the blogosphere it is great to get things out as they happen, so HAPPY WOMEN'S DAY to everyone! Can't decide whether I should have celebrated it today or yesterday, so decided to do both. By now US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will have flown home after celebrating Women's Day in South Africa. After Nelson Mandela's daughter Zenani told me at the Serendipitea function of Hillary's visit I was so looking forward to meeting her but gave up my chance so my esteemed colleagues who are always angling for invites could go to the Presidential Guest house last Friday for a dinner with the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoane-Mashabane. Despite her rather Maoist title Maite has the reputation of being very nice (or she was when she first took office) and her face was all over the news with that of Mrs Clinton. So was Zenani's of course, who met up with Hillary- an old friend of hers by her own account - at her father's Houghton residence for lunch.
Not everyone was as lucky. The editor of a leading daily newspaper (I stand corrected, THE leading daily newspaper) was invited by Busa (Business Unity South Africa) together with the US Chamber of Commerce in SA Young Presidents Organisation and Endeavour to meet Mrs Clinton at the IDC training centre in Sandton. "I am one of the few editors who actually work," he said rather tartly, but nevertheless he took time out of his busy schedule to drive through the gruelling Sandton lunchtime traffic. The queue in front of the venue took 40 minutes to negotiate and then there was another 10 minute struggle to find parking as the proceedings were poorly managed and shambolic. When he finally arrived out of breath clutching his invitation at the reception desk he was told he was "not on the list". This is something that makes every journalist grit their teeth as I know from personal experience. When you absolutely know that you RSVP'd or in this case his PA had responded, there is no excuse on the PR agency's side."I really don't want to meet Hillary Clinton this much," he said to himself, turning tail and leaving. A call to his PA confirmed that he had confirmed his attendance but he was subsequently told that he should have gone to the "media centre"which was of course not signposted. The editor in question was not alone; many of the business guests were also messed around badly. Story of our lives when it comes to a visiting dignitary...
Funny about Mrs Clinton: some love her, some hate her. South African may love Mrs Balls but only in chutney form. Hillary definitely has more balls than Bill but it didn't win her enough votes to beat Barack Obama. Some even see her new role as a consolation prize ...
I had a list of intelligent, not too political questions that I would have liked to have asked Mrs Clinton (next time, Zenani, plse make good on your promises and arrange a proper meeting!!!!).
1. In terms of advancement of human rights in Africa, is it good enough to have only one female president on the continent? How does the composition of our Cabinet/parliamentary representation measure up?
2. Archbishop Tutu went live on TV telling us never to mention the word again after the xenophobic attacks last year. As an outsider does she think ubuntu actually exists? Is there a sense of community among Africans?
3. What are the differences and challenges between US and African women, or between a First and Third World?
4. Prior to her appointment as the US Secretary of State her ideal was the presidency ... Does she think she is being utilised optimally?
And my own favourite one ... what changes has she seen within the city of Joburg itself since the early 1990s when she had her husband grew acquainted with the city during the Mandela administration? Will she be here for 2010 and is she a soccer mom? You gotta beat Barack Obama at something