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
News
people
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Jenrick Group: Multi Skilled Maintenance Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Multi Skill...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£20000 - £21000 per annum: The Jenrick Group: This high quality manufacturer o...

The Jenrick Group: Electrical Maintenance Engineer

£30000 - £35000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Electrical ...

Recruitment Genius: Photo Booth Host

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company offers London's best photo booth ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'