S.Africa leader hails post-apartheid progress, admits errors

South Africa ANC supporters hail Ramaphosa unseen as he arrives for the Soweto rally.  By Phill Magakoe AFP
SEP 3, 2023 LISTEN
ANC supporters hail Ramaphosa (unseen) as he arrives for the Soweto rally. By Phill Magakoe (AFP)

The needs of South Africans are better met today than they were at the end of the apartheid era, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the ruling ANC's first campaign rally on Sunday.

Ramaphosa admitted mistakes along the way but urged voters not just to look at the ANC's record of recent years.

The party has ruled in South Africa since the end of apartheid in the 1990s.

"The South Africa we live in today is very different to the South Africa of 1994," Ramaphosa, in polo shirt and cap, told a full stadium in Soweto, an iconic township on the southern fringes of Johannesburg which the ANC chose to launch its electoral campaign.

South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, was elected in 1994.

"Today we have provided the basic needs for our people that they never had in the past," Ramaphosa said.

Next year, against the backdrop of a struggling economy, South Africans will elect members of parliament. The majority party will then designate the president.

Ramaphosa called on voters, who will thus decide whether he gets a second term as leader, not to focus on the negative aspects of his record but to look at the progress made in thirty years.

"We want to be as transparent and open as possible about where we have made progress, but also about the mistakes," he told the assembled crowd, launching a grassroots consultation process that will culminate in a policy programme for the next five years.

He listed some of the problems the country has faced recently, including the Covid pandemic which led to the loss of 100,000 lives and two million jobs, as well as riots in 2021 in which more than 350 people were killed, floods and finally the economic consequences of the conflict in Ukraine.

"We are not making excuses but this is the reality we have had to face," said Ramaphosa.

He promised to rid the Johannesburg region of illegal miners who are often the source, or trigger, for violence, but also to take a tough stance on undocumented foreigners, a recurring theme in recent weeks.

The South African president stated that in recent years, but more broadly over the past 30 years, "we have been working to improve the lives of our fellow citizens".