Ramaphosa pulls out of radio interview as criticism mounts over assault allegations against host

28 November 2019 - 18:24 By Matthew Savides
President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture.
President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture.
Image: Supplied

President Cyril Ramaphosa bowed to public pressure on Thursday, and pulled out of a PowerFM radio interview just hours before it was due to take place.

Ramaphosa had been slated to take part in “The Chairman’s Conversation” with PowerFM chairperson Given Mkhari.

However, there was criticism over the interview because assault charges had previously been opened against Mkhari by his wife, Ipeleng. Mkhari had also also opened charges against Ipeleng, stemming from an alleged fight at their home in July 2018.

The matters against Mkhari and Ipeleng were withdrawn in the Randburg magistrate's court in August last year as the pair went for mediation.

In a statement on Thursday, the presidency said that — “in the light of concerns raised by civil society organisations” over the event — Ramaphosa had decided not to participate.

NPO The Wise Collective was among those organisations who had questioned Ramaphosa's involvement in the Chairman's Conversation, given the allegations previously lodged against Mkhari. It described the interview as being “in poor taste”.

Another organisation, the Soul City Institute, was equally critical.

“We believe that your appearance will give indirect endorsement to Mr Mkhari and further entrench the belief that there are no social consequences to violent behaviour by powerful men. We also believe that your appearance will minimise the nature of the problem and taint the credibility of the presidency in dealing with violence against women,” it wrote in a letter, dated November 26.

“President Ramaphosa firmly believes that he, like every other South African, has a responsibility to do everything within his means to confront gender-based violence, and to do nothing that undermines the effectiveness of the national effort.

“This is all the more critical at a time when the country is observing the annual 16 Days of No Violence against Women and Children,” the statement read.

The presidency added that the Mkharis had met with civil society organisations and senior officials on Thursday to resolve the impasse, “but unfortunately the resolution reached by the parties was too late to ensure his participation”.

However, it stressed that the withdrawal was not “an endorsement of the untested allegations raised by the civil society organisations, but a carefully weighed up decision taken in the public interest”.

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