White House announces presidential delegation to attend President Ramaphosa’s inauguration
BY LOU SIFA
Nobody really expected Donald Trump, the foreign leader most disliked in Africa, to attend the 25 May inauguration of South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa. But the White House announced Thursday that a U.S. government delegation will attend the event.
In a press statement released Thursday, the White House said:
“Today, President Donald J. Trump announced the designation of a presidential delegation to attend the inauguration of His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, president of the Republic of South Africa, on May 25, 2019, in Pretoria, South Africa.”
The delegation, with a high concentration of personalities in the economic sphere, will be headed by Kimberly A. Reed, president and chairman of the board of directors of the export-import Bank of the United States. The other members of the presidential delegation will include the following: Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator of the United States Agency for International Development; Andrew Olmem, deputy assistant to the president for economic policy and deputy director of the National Economic Council; Jessica Lapenn, chargé d’affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy Pretoria; Cyril Sartor, special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs, national security council.
On Wednesday 8 May, Cyril Ramaphosa, the union leader-turned-businessman who climbed to the presidential seat following the resignation, in February 2018, of former president Jacob Zuma amid corruption scandals, was elected president as a result of the ruling African National Congress’ (ANC) win of a slim majority in parliament.
With only 57.51 percent of the vote, the ANC scored its smallest ever victory in a general election, with the lowest ever turn out rate that speaks to the disappointment of ANC members, especially among the youths, in the one-time powerful party that has now failed to do much to end the lingering ‘economic apartheid’ in the country.
One of several paths President Ramaphosa has chosen to go through to address the citizens’ discontent is an ambitious land reform.
While relations between Washington and Pretoria are ok, President Ramaphosa’s announced policy of land reform last August was followed by tension flareup between the two nations as Donald Trump recklessly meddled in South Africa’s internal politics, on the basis of false information .
It all started with Fox News show Tucker Carlson, in his show Tucker Carlson Tonight, accusing president Ramaphosa of being a racist, calling him a coward, and claiming the president has changed the constitution to “steal land from white citizens because they have the wrong skin color.”
Carlson drew a contrast between the U.S. State Department’s portrayal of South Africa as a democratic state and what he perceives as a racist government:
“The State Department did not mention that by following the rule of law, he [Ramaphosa] has changed the Constitution to make it possible to steal land from people because they’re the wrong skin color.”
The comments sparked popular outrage, but South African authorities, including President Ramaphosa himself, reacted calmly and sought to explain the government’s approach to land reform.
It did not take more for Trump to tweet the next day:
“I have asked Secretary of State Pompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.”
A crisis was born, which later led to Ramaphosa publishing a column in The Financial Times in which he explained that the lingering economic disparities of the apartheid era, which translate to severe inequality between black and white South Africans, justify the land reform initiative. The president stressed that the extension of land ownership to blacks is a prerequisite for South Africa to reach its full economic potential.