Check back for daily updates from the President's trip in Africa

March 23

March 24

March 25

March 26

March 27

March 28

March 29

March 30

March 31

April 1

April 2



Rwanda, Uganda

South Africa

South Africa

South Africa






Today, President Clinton travels to Johannesburg, South Africa. While in Johannesburg, the President participates in several events, including:

Visit to the Ron Brown Commercial Center

Wreath Laying and Tour of the Hector Peterson Memorial

Round Table Discussion on the Future with Young Leaders

Ron Brown Commercial Center Visit

President Clinton visits the Ron Brown Commercial Center, located in the most vibrant business district in greater Johannesburg. The center will provide support for American companies looking to enter or expand into the sub-Saharan African market. It is one of only four Commercial Centers established worldwide. (The other centers are located in Shanghai, Jakarta and Sao Paolo.)

The Department of Commerce's Commercial Service office in Johannesburg has already become a focal point for regional outreach to the 12 countries of the Southern African Development Community. The Creation of a commercial center enhances export promotion by offering a range of support programs that can be tailored to help almost any U.S. company enter the market. The Commercial Center will also serve as a vehicle for other agencies such as Exim, TDA, USTR and USAID's business-related activities.

The Commercial Center site, a neo-classical stand-alone building on a main commercial artery in Illovo, was selected for its accessibility and visibility. In 1997, the building was dedicated to the memory and work of the late Ron Brown. The Center is staffed by three Foreign Commercial Service officers, an American administrator and 17 local staff. The Center contains several conference rooms, as well as a large multipurpose room that can seat 75 and will be used by U.S. companies for conferences and product demonstrations. An internet-linked commercial information resource center is staffed to answer trade-related queries from U.S. and African businesses and will serve as a repository for economic and commercial reports from State Department officers stationed throughout Africa. The Commercial Center also houses 3 offices for partner organizations -- currently, one is occupied by a trade promotion office for the State of Michigan.

Wreath Laying and Tour of Hector Peterson Memorial

The President tours the Hector Peterson Memorial, located in Orlando West, in Soweto, the largest township in South Africa. It memorializes the struggle that began in 1976 when Soweto youths protested against the exclusive use of Afrikaans in public schools. The Hector Peterson Memorial contains an exhibition of photographs taken from that time, photos that were, in many instances, smuggled out of South Africa to be developed overseas for fear of discovery.

The Soweto Heritage Trust now owns the land on which the Hector Peterson Memorial stands. The Trust was formed by local leaders to preserve the history and lessons learned in Soweto, and to promote the growth and development of the township. The Trust views the Hector Peterson Memorial as a key piece of its economic development project. They plan to use the Memorial, and its key location inside Soweto near the Mandela House, as a draw for tourism and the growth of local business.

Round Table Discussion on the Future with Young Leaders

The President meets with young leaders at the Maphanzela [MAH-pahn-zel-ah] Primary School in the Thokoza [tuh-KOH-za] township. The school straddles what was, until recently, a war zone in a violent sectarian struggle for political control between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). The violence peaked in the run-up to the 1994 parliamentary elections when Thokoza became one of the most violent areas in South Africa. Black-on-black violence between predominantly Zulu-speaking IFP supporters and predominantly Xhosa-speaking supporters of the ANC left hundreds dead and thousands homeless.

Armed IFP youth formed para-military Self-Protection Units (SPUs), while their ANC counterparts formed Self-Defense Units (SDUs) to defend areas under their control. As the violence escalated, several areas in the township, such as Khumalo Street, became "no-go" areas. A person of the wrong political affiliation found in a "no-go" area risked being killed.

In this tense climate, R.P. Maphanzela school had to be vacated for several months in late 1993 because of its location near Buthelezi Street -- the boundary separating ANC and IFP-controlled strongholds along Khumalo Street. The school's students (who came from families supporting each of the opposing parties) continued to attend classes at alternative locations.

Today, Thokoza is a model of reconciliation. No incidents of political violence have been reported in over two years. Maphanzela School helped create the climate for the peace that has gradually returned to this troubled township. In early 1994, the provincial leadership of the ANC and IFP, in conjunction with church and community groups, came together to restore peace to the area, beginning with Maphanzela School, which resumed classes at its current location in February 1994. For several months thereafter, students were the only people who could travel across the Khumala Street dividing line without risk of being killed.

Following the elections in April 1994, these same groups worked hard to extend the peace beyond the school to the broader community. The SPUs and SDUs were demobilized and many of their members incorporated into the South African Police Service as part of the "Simunye" [we-ARE-one] initiative. Anyone can now travel the length of Khumalo Street without fear, and Maphanzela school has lost its special status as the only neutral zone for children of ANC and IFP partisans.

Follow the President | Today | Itinerary | Photos
Speeches | Briefings | Countries | Issues | Partnerships | Links

[Footer icon]

[White House icon] [Help Desk icon]

To comment on this service,
send feedback to the Web Development Team.