White House to attend Ramaphosa’s inauguration, but no Trump

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HIs Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa receives


President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Kopano Tlape/GCIS)

The White House announced that it would send a delegation to the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa next Saturday. However, US President Donald Trump will not bless the occasion with his presence. 

“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 White House said in a press statement released on Thursday. 

“The Honourable Kimberly A. Reed, president and chairman of the board of directors of the export-import Bank of the United States, will lead the delegation.”

The other members of the presidential delegation are: 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, United States Embassy Pretoria, Cyril Sartor, special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs, national security council.

The Trump administration had an uneasy relationship with Africa, after Trump once referred to African countries as “shitholes” – a statement which was condemned by South African politicians.

Last year August, as the land debate raged in South Africa, Trump tweeted: “I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. ‘South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.’ “

Trump’s tweet followed a Fox News report in which presenter Tucker Carlson made several false assertions about South Africa’s process of reviewing section 25 of the Constitution and land reform in general. Carlson also delivered a veiled attack on former US president Barack Obama and he called President Cyril Ramaphosa racist.

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu met with the American chargé d’affaires and she was also in contact with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

However, at the time, Trump’s tweet was welcomed by FF Plus MP Corné Mulder, and the party said it would engage with the US administration about the “injustices” in South Africa, “namely farm murders and expropriation without compensation”.

Carlson’s report followed visits to the US by some right-wing groups such as AfriForum and the South African Institute for Race Relations, where they met with alt-right organisations and “think tanks”, such as the libertarian Cato Institute, which was founded and funded by American industrialist Charles Koch, to complain about the proposed amendment of section 25 of the Constitution.

Ramaphosa’s inauguration next Saturday, at Loftus Versfeld, home of the Blue Bulls, will cost the South African taxpayer about R120m

At a briefing about the readiness for the inauguration earlier this week, Minister in the Presidency Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that, in terms of heads of state, all leaders from the SADC region were invited as well as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is also the chairperson of the African Union.

“The guests also include representatives from the continental regional economic blocks, former liberation movements, fraternal countries, the African Union and the United Nations,” she said. “Eminent” persons and former presidents of South Africa have also been invited.

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