South Africa's Ramaphosa visits province beset by violent protests

Darnell Taylor
April 20, 2018

To pay attention to the situation in the North West, the President has made a decision to cut short his participation in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London where he is leading a government delegation.

Police say the situation in Mahikeng has improved even as more shops were looted, and two cars were set alight overnight.

The latest protests erupted on Wednesday with residents demanding that the province's Premier Supra Mahumapelo, a member of Ramaphosa's ruling African National Congress party, step down.

Ramaphosa was expected to visit Mahikeng on Friday, to address an urgent meeting convened with structures of the ANC, the Leagues, Alliance and the ANC Caucus in the North West province.

"As a result of widespread unrest in Mahikeng, allegedly related to service delivery, the campus has been closed for today for the safety of all NWU staff and students", the University had announced earlier on the day.

"They are continuing on the same trajectory of the Supra Must Fall campaign started by those who once called themselves the North West Business Forum and have now changed their name to the Revolutionary Council".

The provincial ANC, on the other hand, has told Eyewitness News it will go into that meeting with a mandate to protect and defend the North West premier.

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Mr Ramaphosa has called for calm and ordered police to exercise restraint.

"They want President Ramaphosa to lead a clean government".

He added that the ANC's leadership needs "to deal with the people that are reasonably suspected to be corrupt within the ranks of the organization".

The NWBF first made the call for Mahumapelo to leave in 2015, but its meetings and protest marches were disrupted by the premier's loyalists.

The ANC Youth League, however, issued two conflicting statements, with spokesperson in North West Tshiamo Tsotetsi saying the group supported the call for Mahumapelo to vacate office, while acting provincial chairperson Tsotso Tlhapi said the issue had not been discussed at its last provincial executive meeting previous year.

South Africa's faltering economy has been a priority for Mr Ramaphosa since he took over from former President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma's nine-year tenure saddled South Africa with weak growth, ballooning national debt, depressed investor confidence and record unemployment.

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