Clinton brings hope to Cape Town ghetto

ONLY Hillary Clinton was expected at the Victoria Mxenge Housing Project in Philippi, one of Cape Town's saddest, sprawling shack settlements yesterday.

When Bill also stepped out of the shiny black limo, part of a fleet of US vehicles being flown all over the continent with the Clintons, the temperature of a few hundred ghetto dwellers rose. "I can't tell you what this means to me," said an emotional Dennis Mofokeng, 31, standing a little apart from the crowd and swallowing hard. Mr Mofokeng is a member of the 280-strong housing cooperative named after an assassinated anti-apartheid activist. "To think the President would come to a place like this. He must know how we struggled."

American marksmen were crouched on the community hall roof: security men in mirrored shades manned the wire separating the Clintons from locals. The housing project, still a building site, seemed too fragile for the 20-vehicle cavalcade crawling around a narrow dirt track, carefully avoiding the ducks.

Soon Hillary and Bill, of the White House, Washington, were breathlessly admiring Veliswa Mbeki's new inside flush loo. But Mr Mofokeng seemed to find nothing incongruous in the surrealest of scenes. "I am just so proud," he said.

It is easy to be cynical about the US tour of the world's poorest continent. But yesterday the Clintons did manage to reach through the suffocating security and the wire to touch local people.

It would be hard not to be moved by the sight the Clintons had just whizzed by on the other side of the road. South Africa has no shortage of appalling housing, but Philippi, a vast squatter camp of cardboard and corrugated iron, is among the worst.

Mrs Clinton first visited Mxenge last year on a solo trip to South Africa. She said yesterday that she was impressed by the scheme in which shack dwellers - predominantly women - save for and build their own homes.

Mr Mofokeng still lives across the road. Everyone there, he says, dreams of moving to Mxenge. But most are unemployed and have no money to save. President Clinton said yesterday that Mxenge was a model that could be replicated throughout South Africa.

If only the housing crisis could be that easily solved. The project is innovative but low incomes and a shortage of affordable land - Mxenge is built on land donated by the Catholic church - are major obstacles to it spreading.

Presidential optimism reigned again later in Mr Clinton's historic speech to the South African parliament. It was a triumphant moment for the ANC - to have the first US president to visit South Africa praise its achievements. US anger at South Africa's support for Libya and Iraq were forgotten. Mr Clinton's hosts suffered reciprocal amnesia, forgetting America's early bolstering of apartheid during the Cold War.

South Africa is the political highpoint for the Clintons on this six- country tour. President Mandela and his companion Graca Machel warmly embracing the Clintons yesterday - this is the image most likely to delight the public - particularly black Americans - back home. And Mr Clinton took care to connect the struggle of blacks in the US and South Africa, and said much rested in both countries on South Africa achieving its dream of a multiracial democracy. "America wants a strong South Africa," he said. "America needs a strong South Africa."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine