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Ramaphosa concedes workers weakening trust in South African leadership

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Ramaphosa concedes workers weakening trust in South African leadership

President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged public dissatisfaction with South Africa’s institutions and leadership on Tuesday, just two days after miners protested against him and forced him to leave a May Day celebration.

Ramaphosa, a leader of a mining union under white-minority rules was taken offstage by miners and then transferred to an armoured personnel carrier.

The protest was held during the televised ceremony organized by COSATU (country’s biggest union) at Rustenburg Stadium.

“I was… unable to address the gathering because workers there had grievances that they expressed loudly and clearly,”

Ramaphosa said in a weekly newsletter.

“While the main grievance appeared to be about wage negotiations at nearby mines, the workers’ actions demonstrated a broader level of discontent,”

he said.

“It reflects a weakening of trust in their union and (COSATU) federation as well as political leadership, including public institutions,”

Ramaphosa said.

South Africa’s poverty, inequality, and joblessness are high, almost three decades after the end to apartheid.

Ramaphosa pledged to take the “necessary actions to improve (workers’) lives and working conditions .”

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Weakening trust in the government

COSATU — The Congress of South African Trade Unions – is a close ally of in the long-term ruling African National Congress party (ANC).

It called Ramaphosa’s interference “regrettable” and “unacceptable”, but stated that the protest was “to some extent, reflects South Africa’s growing frustration with workers .”

South Africa is the continent’s leading economic power but was hit hard by the Covid crisis, and unemployment is at a record 35%.

Tension on the labour market has fueled anti-foreigner sentiments and occasional demonstrations.

Analysts think South Africa’s political leaders have suffered trust declines at all levels of society and this has been going on for over a decade.

“The situation that Ramaphosa as a state president is facing, is similar to the one that was faced by Jimmy Carter around 1979 in the US where people had lost complete confidence in state institutions and in the leadership cohort,”

said Sandile Swana, an independent political analyst.

Ramaphosa helped found the National Union of Mineworkers in 1982. He entered the private sector after the fall of apartheid and became a successful businessman. After his return to politics, he served as vice president under Jacob Zuma.

He ascended to the presidency in 2018 after Zuma was forced out by mounting corruption scandals.

In 2012, Ramaphosa’s image was badly tarnished when police killed 34 striking workers at the Marikana platinum mine, near Rustenburg, and then operated by Lonmin, where he a non-executive director at the time.

Ramaphosa called for an end to the strikes, which he described as “dastardly illegal” behavior.

Ramaphosa will face a leadership race in the ANC’s December election.

Swana stated that he believes Ramaphosa is secure as a president.

But “what is not secure is the ANC majority vote in 2024 and in 2029” when general elections take place, Swana said.

“The ANC appears to be in an irreversible downslope and Ramaphosa, who is the chaperone of the ANC into its grave,”

Swana argued.

ANC’s electoral support dipped below the 50% mark for the first time in municipal elections last November.

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(c) Agence France-Presse

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