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South Africa seeks to quell violent regional protests

April 21, 2018

President Cyril Ramaphosa returned to South Africa early to manage provincial protests over living standards and corruption. Ramaphosa has vowed to crack down on mismanagement.

Protests in South Africa's North West province
Image: Getty Images/AFP

South African police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in a provincial capital on Friday as President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived at the scene seeking to quell violent unrest.

Ramaphosa cut short a visit to the Commonwealth summit in Britain by a day to huddle with his African National Congress (ANC) colleagues and visit the provincial capital of Mahikeng to meet with local community leaders.

Read more: The Commonwealth: Still relevant for Africa today?

"We call on all our people. Let's be calm and this matter is going to be resolved," Ramaphosa said after meeting with local leaders.

Protesters have been looting, burning tires and blocking roads in and around the North West provincial capital since Wednesday demanding better housing, health services and jobs. The violence forced neighboring Botswana to close the border.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
Ramaphosa has staked his presidency on battling corruption under the ANC.Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Safodien

Early test for Ramaphosa

Protesters are demanding the resignation of the territory's premier, Supra Mahumapelo, a member of the ANC, over alleged corruption in the awarding of state contracts. Mahumapelo denies any corruption.

The protests represent a challenge to Ramaphosa, who replaced Jacob Zuma as president in February. Ramaphosa has vowed to crack down on corruption and mismanagement after Zuma's scandal-plagued nine years in power.

Read more: South Africa: Cyril Ramaphosa purges Jacob Zuma allies in sweeping Cabinet reshuffle

After meeting with local leaders in Mahikeng, Ramaphosa said he understood the public was concerned over the state premier and allegations of corruption.

Protests in South Africa's North West province
More than 20 protesters were arrested on Friday. Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Safodien

"These are matters that are serious enough" he said and said there would be consultation within the ANC and the national government "on an urgent basis."

"We are going to act as speedily as possible to address each of the issues that have been raised," he added.

Protests demanding jobs, housing and services in South Africa are common, where unemployment is at 28 percent.

cw/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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