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‘Ramaphoria’ fizzles out as South Africans’ hope on president wanes4 minutes read

Ramaphosa will make a state-of-the-nation address on Thursday in which he is likely to admit to the country’s problems but also emphasise the positive.

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South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa attends the 11th BRICS leaders summit, in Brazilia, Brazil. Alexei Druzhinin / Sputnik

“Ramaphoria” a term coined by the South African media to describe the giddy expectations President Cyril Ramaphosa had stoked upon his declaration as leader of the African National Congress and president of the country continues to fade, two years on.

Ramaphosa, 67, has been praised for turning the page on the scandal-tainted era of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma but many South Africans are frustrated, disenchanted or angry that his rhetoric of a “new dawn” in a country bedevilled by joblessness, inequality and crime has fallen so far short.

“We have all been disappointed… at the performance of the president over the past two years,” said Dawie Roodt, chief economist at the consultancy firm Efficient Group.

“We are worse off because we are poorer than two years ago in terms of per capita GDP,” he said.

“But we do not have the same levels of incompetence and corruption that we experienced under Zuma.”

Ramaphosa was a trade union leader who played a key role in the apartheid struggle.

After it, he became a hugely wealthy businessman but kept his political contacts bright, and at one point was seen as being groomed to succeed Nelson Mandela.

Instead he became vice president, a largely low-profile role that he held until he landed the top job in February 2018.

That came after an internal wrangle in the ruling African National Congress (ANC) saw Zuma, stained by years of corruption allegations, forced to resign. 

Fifteen months later, Ramaphosa won a popular mandate in elections where the ANC suffered its worst result since apartheid was overturned a quarter of a century earlier.

The party’s electoral support dropped below the psychologically significant mark of 60 percent, falling to 57.5 percent.

– Economic headache –

The slump reflects the failure of Ramaphosa’s reform plans to deliver the jobs and sunnier life that he promised.

In short order, his presidency has had to battle escalating electricity outages, rising unemployment — now at 29.1 percent and the highest in 11 years — and a national airline struggling to stay afloat.

“It is quite clear that he is facing a much bigger challenge… than had been expected,” said Nedbank economist Isaac Matshego.

Ramaphosa’s leadership style is now under cold scrutiny.

Sifiso Skenjana, chief economist at a management consulting firm, IQ Business, said Ramaphosa was having to navigate the “political complexity” of a divided ANC.

“He has tended to try to be inclusive and as a result he has come under a lot of criticism for having some level of indecision.”

The head of the opposition Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen, acidly described Ramaphosa as “stuck in his own quicksand of warring factions and crippling indecisiveness. The incapable head of an incapable state”.

Julius Malema, leader of the firebrand opposition the Economic Freedom Fighters, asked: “What is (it) that Cyril has done since we removed Zuma… except him becoming president?”

“Ramaphosa is certainly not a disaster but he is really a disappointment,” said Roodt.

“He is a weak president,” he said. “His personality is not a very strong leader because he doesnt take decisions, he is always waiting for somebody to tell him what to do.”

Ramaphosa will make a state-of-the-nation address on Thursday in which he is likely to admit to the country’s problems but also emphasise the positive.

“We believe we have laid a very good foundation and a basis for our country to move forward,” he said last week when asked to rate his performance.

He urged the need “to look forward so that we are not beaten down by the moment that we are in.”

Expectations that Thursday’s speech will deliver more of the same have met with scorn in some quarters.

“Why should we waste more time on listening to Ramaphosa’s empty promises on Thursday when it is clear that things in SA are only getting worse?” asked Johannesburg’s former mayor Herman Mashaba.

– Still supported –

Despite his problems, Ramaphosa still enjoys public backing.

“Cyril Ramaphosa is 100 percent better than Jacob Zuma because he is not corrupt, is educated, and is skilled,” said a Johannesburg entrepreneur, Rowan Williams, 37.

“He has also said quite a lot about creating a business friendly environment in South Africa, to attract investment and create jobs. These are steps in the right direction.”

“I voted for him last year and I still love him because he is honest,” said a woman who sold sweets at a street corner in Johannesburg’s opulent suburb of Rosebank.

“While my life has not improved over the last two years, I still feel he is a better president than the one we had before.”

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Politics

Lesotho Prime Minister resigns, to leave office in July

While there’s speculation that his resignation follows mounting pressure over his former and late wife, Thabane attributes his decision to lack of energy.

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Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane./Yahoonews

Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane has announced his resignation. He also failed to show up at a court on Friday for a trial that involved himself and the first lady over the death of his ex-wife.

In a televised speech in the capital in Thursday, Maseru, the 80-year old PM said the decision has been the hardest he’s made in his career and promised to step down in July despite pressure by members of his party.

“Today I wish to reiterate my announcement to retire from office. I might still have the necessary zeal and fervor to continue serving my people and country, but the truth is that at my age I have lost most of my energy. I’m not as energetic as I use to be a few years ago”, he said.

He appealed to all Basotho “not to intentionally misconstrue my announcement to retire from office,” as being linked to his ongoing trial.

While there’s speculation that his resignation follows mounting pressure over his former and late wife, Thabane attributes his decision to lack of energy.

“My fellow countrymen and women it is very unfortunate that some have deliberately decided to distort my decision to retire either motivated by hate or for political gain”, Thabane added in an AFP report.

The Prime Minister was on Friday charged with the murder of 58-year old Lilopelo Thabane, who was murdered in June 2017 by unknown assailants. But he was absent from court and his son said he had gone to South Africa to see a doctor.

“He’s not fled the country, he has gone to South Africa to see a doctor,” Potlako Thabane told Reuters by telephone.

The couple was embroiled in a bitter divorce. Months after assuming office. Thabane married Lesotho’s current first lady, Maesaiah Thabane.

The 48 year old is also facing trial over the murder. She returns to court on March 17.

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Politics

‘Nigeria too important to be on US travel ban’, seeks removal -Interior minister

“Nigeria is too important an ally of America to deserve such a sanction,” Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola told the visiting US Ambassador.

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Nigeria's Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola and US Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Mary Beth Leonard during a working visit to the minister's office in Abuja on Thursday Feb 20th, 2020 where they discussed issues on the Visa Reciprocity Policy vis-a-vis; Length of Visa Validity, Partial Refund for Rejected Visa Applications, Use of Dropbox amongst others./Twitter: @raufaregbesola/OgundiranDolapo

The Nigerian government has asked the United States to remove it from the list of countries whose citizens are banned from accessing certain categories of visas for long stay or permanent residency by the new policy which took effect on Friday, Feb. 21.

Nigeria’s interior minister, Rauf Aregbesola made the request to drop the ban to the U.S. ambassador in Abuja, a ministry statement said on Thursday.

“Nigeria is too important an ally of America to deserve such a sanction,” Aregbesola said, according to the statement quoted by Reuters.

“We are positive that (the) visa restriction is a temporary one, it will soon be put behind us,” he said, adding that Nigeria had complied with most of the concerns raised by the United States.

The statement did not say how U.S. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard responded to the request, but it said she assured Aregbesola of “her country’s determination to continue to collaborate with Nigeria”.

U.S. President Donald Trump included Nigeria and five other countries in an expanded version of his travel ban list early this month, sparking outrage from many of them.

U.S. officials have said the six countries failed to meet U.S. security and information-sharing standards, necessitating the new restrictions.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is the biggest country on the list whose citizens will be suspended from U.S. visas that can lead to permanent residency.  

The original travel ban, issued in 2017, barred nearly all immigrants and travellers from seven countries with majority Muslim populations.

The policy was revised amid court challenges, but the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld it in 2018.   

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East Africa Politics News

President Kiir, Machar agree to form South Sudan unity government on Saturday

“We had a meeting with the president on the outstanding issues. We have agreed to form the government on 22 Feb,” Machar, First Vice President-nominee said.

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President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar pledge to power-sharing deal
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar in a previous reconciliation meeting in Kampala, Uganda brokered by President Yoweri Museveni. /AFP

Former rebel and opposition leader, Riek Machar said he has agreed to form a unity government with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to meet Saturday’s deadline, following talks at state house on Thursday.

Before the announcement, it had been unclear if the Feb. 22 deadline would be met as key benchmarks of the 2018 peace agreement had not been fulfilled. The deadline had elapsed several times without an agreement between the two sides.

“We had a meeting with the president on the outstanding issues. We have agreed to form the government on 22 Feb,” Machar said.

Kiir confirmed the agreement, a Reuters report said.

“We have agreed to form the government,” he said after the meeting, adding that he will appoint Machar as first vice president on Friday.

“We are going to discuss the security arrangement for the protection of all opposition forces and members,” Kiir added.

All the members of the opposition will be given protection, he added. “And if there are things we have not agreed upon, we had agreed to resolve them. We shall finalise them incoming days,” Kiir said.

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