By MOGOMOTSI MAGOME, Associated Press
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African billionaire businessman has apologized for telling U.S. President Donald Trump that “Africa loves you” during the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.
A video of Patrice Motsepe’s remarks to Trump went viral on social media and sparked outrage from people who disagreed with Motsepe and lambasted him for speaking on Africans’ behalf.
In the video, Motsepe can be heard telling Trump during a group dinner that “Africa loves America. Africa loves you. It is very, very important. We want America to do well. We want you to do well. The success of America is the success of the rest of the world.”
In response to Motsepe’s introduction, Trump said: “You’ve done a great job, thank you very much.”
Motsepe’s comments drew criticism even among some South African cabinet ministers, with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni saying the billionaire’s views did not represent those of the government.
KwaZulu-Natal province premier Sihle Zikalala was more blunt, saying Trump was not a friend of the ruling African National Congress party and that South Africa had nothing to benefit from the U.S. president.
Trump has been criticized for his comments about Africa, including one comparing African nations to a dirty latrine, which led to widespread anger from Africans and even heads of state.
In a statement released Tuesday, Motsepe said the debate over his remarks had exposed him to different views.
“I have a duty to listen to these differing views and would like to apologize. I do not have the right to speak on behalf of anybody except myself,” he said.
Motsepe said his remarks were partly aimed at encouraging discussions between the Trump administration and African political leaders amid “increasing feedback from certain American political and business leaders that South Africa and some African countries are anti-America and its political leadership.”
Motsepe, the first black African on the Forbes billionaires list and brother-in-law of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, was attending a dinner of business leaders from around the world including FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the CEOs of Siemens and Saudi Aramco and the Ivory Coast-born CEO of Credit Suisse, Tidjane Thiam.