South African president defends 30 years of ANC rule in speech to Parliament ahead of elections

by MMC
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CAPE TOWN, South Africa — President Cyril Ramaphosa insisted Thursday that his ruling African National Congress party was making progress in solving South Africa’s problems such as record unemployment, electricity crisis and corruption allegations that have even tarnished his own reputation.

Several polls suggest the party once led by Nelson Mandela could lose its majority this year, which would be a historic moment for South Africa.

The ANC has been in power since the end of apartheid’s system of racial segregation in 1994, but its reputation as the liberator of South Africa has eroded and its support has gradually declined.

“Just as we cannot deny the progress South Africans have made over the past 30 years, we must also not downplay the serious challenges we continue to face,” Ramaphosa said.

Although Ramaphosa acknowledged that Africa’s most developed economy is in serious trouble, he maintained throughout his speech that the country was better than under apartheid, which amounted to a call for the country to keep confidence in the ANC.

This is becoming increasingly difficult for many people in South Africa given its official unemployment rate of more than 30%, the highest in the world. The unemployment rate for young people under 25 has reached a shocking 60%.

South Africa’s struggling economy has also been seriously hampered by an electricity crisis, with power outages across the country proving disastrous for businesses.

The energy crisis, which led to record power outages of up to 12 hours a day last year, has been blamed by many, including Ramaphosa, on the administration of former president Jacob Zuma. Zuma ruled South Africa from 2009 to 2018 and is accused of overseeing a period of widespread corruption, during which state entities like the national electricity supplier were exposed.

Ramaphosa, elected in 2019, said his administration must repair the damage. He said more than 200 people had been prosecuted for serious corruption and more were under investigation. He said $453 million stolen through corruption had been returned to the state and another $737 million had been frozen by authorities.

“But much more needs to be done to completely eradicate corruption,” Ramaphosa said. “We will not stop until every person responsible is held accountable for their actions. We won’t stop until all the stolen money is recovered. »

Some estimates put the cost of this period of corruption at $17 billion. A major South African news site quipped: “Ramaphosa commends the ANC government for rebuilding what it destroyed. »

Although Ramaphosa was elected primarily on a promise to end corruption and clean up the ANC, he was also marred by scandal when it was revealed in 2022 that he held more than $500,000 in US cash hidden in the furniture of a ranch he owns. The amount was revealed when it was reported stolen. Ramaphosa was cleared despite allegations of money laundering and tax evasion by political opponents, but the episode reportedly pushed him to the brink of resignation.

He is now seeking a second and final five-year term in elections due to take place between May and August. It was thought Ramaphosa might announce the election date in his state of the nation address, but his spokesperson said he would make the announcement later this month.

The ANC is still expected to win the largest share of the vote in South Africa’s seventh multiracial national elections since the fall of apartheid.

But if it drops below 50%, he will need to form a coalition to stay in government and keep Ramaphosa for a second term. South Africans vote for political parties, not individual candidates. Parties are allocated seats in Parliament based on their vote share and lawmakers then elect the president, who has been the leader of the ANC since 1994 due to his majority.

Ramaphosa’s speech was largely met with cheers from ANC lawmakers and occasional jeers from opposition members, but it was not an occasionally raucous event like in previous years following the inauguration new rules preventing lawmakers from interrupting the president to make their own policy. points.

The Economic Freedom Fighters party, the third largest party in Parliament, boycotted the speech after six of its senior officials, including its leader, were suspended from Parliament for the month of February and excluded from the speech for the having disrupted last year by rushing the scene.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema called Ramaphosa and the ANC “cowards” for not allowing the six lawmakers to attend, although the decision to suspend them was taken by the disciplinary commission of Parliament.

The official opposition Democratic Alliance said Ramaphosa’s speech made no secret that the country had regressed under his mandate “into a state of decadence and decline which has only exacerbated inequalities, placed millions more people unemployed and sets our country back. »

“Thirty years of South African democracy does not mean we should endure an eternity under the ANC. It’s time to come up with new ideas. It is time to form a new government,” said Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen.


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