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US Envoy to Pretoria Has a Hotline to White House
September 1, 2004

Business Day (Johannesburg)

September 1, 2004
Posted to the web September 1, 2004

Jonathan Katzenellenbogen , International Affairs Editor

Self-confessed 'policy wonk' has firm view on Zimbabwe

SA NOW has a direct line to the White House in the form of new US ambassador to SA Jendayi Frazer, who was previously the adviser for Africa on the White House's National Security Council.

There is little doubt about her access to Washington as she has been close to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice since her student days.

Frazer says she is in Pretoria because the US thinks SA is of considerable strategic importance as a regional leader. South African foreign policy whether it be on Democratic republic of Congo or Sudan, the Non-Aligned Movement or the African Union (AU) has global implications for the US. That, she says, is the main reason she is here.

The National Security Council may be the centre of foreign policy decision-making in Washington. But in Pretoria, Frazer wants to implement the Africa policy she has played a large role in formulating.

It is probably one stop on what will be a long and high- flying career for Frazer in US foreign policy. She already has experience in military planning and advising at the most senior levels.

Being an ambassador adds another dimension.

She has begun her term with a clear message that government's policy of "quiet diplomacy" towards Zimbabwe does not seem to be working and pressure should be applied on Harare if there is to be progress with the on-off inter party talks between the ruling Zanu ( PF) and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change .

For a solution in Zimbabwe, she says, "the pressure has to come from SA more than any other country".

Frazer also believes that if the AU speaks "clearly and unequivocally", there can be a bigger push towards a settlement.

Frazer believes t here is a serious question as to the real value of the talks between the parties in Zimbabwe as they may have been used as a mechanism by President Robert Mugabe to delay the restoration of democracy .

She says the question has to be asked if the talks so far are anything other than a delaying tactic for Mugabe.

"I think SA should try and get the talks restarted and be public and transparent."

Everyone, but particularly Zimbabweans, she insists, has a right to be informed about developments in the talks .

"I don't think there is a military solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe " there is only a negotiated solution .

Frazer would like to see "a coalition of the willing jump-start the negotiations. SA and Nigeria, countries in the southern African region and those that have signed up for peer review under the New Partnership for Africa's Development could play a potentially helpful role."

Another of her more immediate priorities is the implementation of the US's antiretroviral treatment programme in SA.

"I carry a mandate from the president (George Bush) to make sure we give more people treatment," she says.

At the moment there are about 3500 South Africans receiving antiretrovirals from the US out of 10000 who are receiving medical treatment for HIV/AIDS -related problems under the programme.

Over the next few months Frazer says she will also try to inject urgency into the Southern African Customs Union's negotiations with the US to create a free trade pact.

Frazer's is a political appointment by Bush, but what she calls her "policy wonk" specialist background gives her a good chance of continuing to serve as ambassador if senator John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, wins the November presidential election .

Her current appointment is for three years, but she serves at the pleasure of the incumbent president.

But she points out that serving at the discretion of the president also means it would be difficult to turn down a president who asked her to stay in her post.

While current US polls suggest Bush has a 50% chance of winning, Frazer's chances of staying in SA for her full three years are far greater.


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