South African President Appeals For Calm After Violent Protests

Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s new president, appealed for calm after protests on April 21st.  The citizens of the North West province of South Africa were protesting against their provincial leader on charges of corruption. People in this province have not been getting the resources they need due to a lack of care and services which are supposed to be provided by the local government. Due to the severity of the protests, Ramaphosa was forced to cut his trip to the Commonwealth Summit in Britain short. He later met with his party, the African National Congress, and said “We call on all our people. Let’s be calm and this matter is going to be resolved.”

Ramaphosa, who was recently inducted into presidency this February, ran a campaign on the grounds of ending corruption. His predecessor, Zuma, was notorious for his scandalous nine years in office. President Zuma faced nine votes of no confidence until he was officially forced to step down by his own party, the African National Congress (ANC).

The protests quickly became violent and even forced Botswana, a neighbouring country, to shut down some border crossings. In a desperate need to end the violence, the police used tear gas at protesters. As the commotion mounted, shops were heavily looted and cars were burned over the unrest. Northwest premier, Supra Mahumapelo, has been accused of numerous counts of corruption. The people in the northern province claim they have limited access to good schools and don’t have well maintained and sufficiently stocked hospitals. Threats have been made to the ANC that if Mahumapelo isn’t replaced soon, “[residents] will burn the city,” said Oratile Seadira, a poor construction worker in the province.

One in four workers are unemployed in this province. Citizens of South Africa have been calling on the government for higher wages and better employment opportunities for a while. Income disparity in South Africa runs high and is clearly affecting numerous people. South Africans claim that the current minimum wage is a poverty wage. The president has sent in a proposal to make the current wage 20 rand ($1.60). However, South Africans call this a gross insult and claim that the proposed minimum wage should be three times higher. The current wage isn’t a sustainable living wage for anyone. While Ramaphosa acknowledges this, there isn’t much he can do without it having drastic ramifications for the economy. Ramaphosa is putting his efforts into building a robust economy in order to gain the much needed support of his people.

Aditi Mahesh