South African mining tycoon Patrice Motsepe has apologised for telling the United States (US) President Donald Trump that Africans love him.
The billionaire made the statement following a backlash, with critics saying he had no right to assume the role of Africa’s spokesman.
“I have a duty to listen to these differing views and would like to apologise,” Motsepe said.
He had praised Trump at a dinner in Davos, Switzerland.
“Africa loves America. Africa loves you… We want America to do well. We want you to do well,” the tycoon told Trump at the World Economic Forum event earlier this month.
South Africa’s opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said Motsepe had been motivated by “selfish business interests”.
“Motsepe’s statement is an insult to the African-Americans who have been directly affected by Trump’s racism,” the EFF said at the time.
Motsepe said his comments to the US president were partly aimed at encouraging discussions between the Trump administration and African political and business leaders because of the perception “that South Africa and some African countries are anti-America and its political leadership”.
“This perception has had an impact on our ability to attract foreign investments and create jobs,” he said in a statement.
His comments had triggered a “lively, diverse and at times emotional debate”, exposing him to the views of Africans who disagreed with him.
“I do not have the right to speak on behalf of anybody except myself,” Motsepe added.
Motsepe, 57, is one of South Africa’s most influential businessmen and is close to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Forbes magazine listed him in 2008 as a billionaire and said he had become the first black African on its list of the world’s wealthiest people. It estimates his current wealth at $2.4 billion.
At the dinner, Motsepe told Trump it was an honour to meet him as they were both listed in a 2017 Forbes magazine profile of the Greatest Living Business Minds.
“You are doing a good job,” Trump replied—BBC