Though America has not had an ambassador in SA since the departure of Patrick Gaspard in December 2016, the new ambassador for Washington, Lana Marks, said this did not mean president Donald Trump didn’t take SA or Africa seriously.
She told a press conference in Sandton on Wednesday that Trump appointed her as his preferred candidate in November 2016, soon after he took office.
“What delayed the whole thing was the vetting process, which was thorough. I’ve been to so many countries in my life and I guess that delayed the whole process.”
Marks said Trump was anxious for her to get to South Africa and begin her work. Though Trump has not officially visited the country since taking office, Marks said he once told her how he loved Cape Town and its beauty.
Marks said SA continues to enjoys all the privileges of the US’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). Agoa is a trade preference programme that aims to enhance market access to the US for qualifying sub-Saharan African countries, on condition that they work towards improving rule of law, human rights and respect for core labour standards.
“Our two governments are working collectively on all aspects of this agreement,” she said.
Marks said the US government appreciates the transparent manner in which President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government functions.
On the question of the expropriation of land without compensation, Marks said nothing has happened with land seizures that they are aware of.
“We are very pleased from the US side that things are dealt with in a very transparent manner.”
Marks said crime remained a problem in SA, but said efforts made by the government were visible. “President Ramaphosa and the SA government are doing their utmost to address this problem they inherited.”
Marks said the atmosphere in the country was positive and created an environment good for investments.
“This is an exciting time and unique opportunity on the road ahead and I’m thankful to be working with President Ramaphosa and his government. This next phase in our relationship is one that I’m proud to be leading as I represent the United States of America.”