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Activists ask Ramaphosa to pull out of Power FM's Chairman's Conversation

In July last year, Power FM boss Given Mkhari and his wife Ipeleng were both arrested after they individually laid criminal complaints of assault against each other over an alleged fight they had in their home.

FILE: President Cyril Ramaphosa on 29 May 2019 at the Union Buildings. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – Civil society organisations The Wise Collective and the Soul City Institute on Wednesday issued statements asking President Cyril Ramaphosa to withdraw from this year’s Chairman’s Conversation hosted by Power FM, saying they were dismayed at the president’s participation in the event after assault allegations previously faced by the station’s boss and MSG Afrika chairperson, Given Mkhari.

In July, last year, Mkhari and his wife Ipeleng were both arrested after they individually laid criminal complaints of assault against each other over an alleged fight they had in their home. The couple subsequently withdrew their complaints and chose to resolve the matter privately.

But, in a letter addressed to Ramaphosa dated 22 November 2019, The Wise Collective accused Mkhari of “flagrantly” refusing to account for his involvement in gender-based violence (GBV). The non-profit organisation said Ramaphosa’s involvement in the annual event was “in poor taste” as he was a proponent against GBV and Femicide.

“The chairman of Power FM, Given Mkhari, has flagrantly refused to account for his own involvement in gender-based violence as an accused in a publicly lodged case of domestic violence, all while running a platform that purports to encourage the nation to ‘speak truth to power’. Domestic violence is not a private matter, especially when a case has been lodged,” The Wise Collective’s letter read.

This year’s Chairman’s Conversation - taking place in the first week of the the annual 16 Days of Activism of No Violence against Women and Children - will see Ramaphosa interviewed by Mkhari on a range of topics affecting the country and is set to take place on Thursday night in Johannesburg. Previously prominent guests to the event included former President Thabo Mbeki and billionaire businessperson Johann Rupert.

**SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES **

The Soul City Institute in its letter to Ramaphosa, dated 26 November 2019, said Mkhari hadn’t “bothered to respect his listeners enough to explain himself and his unacceptable conduct”. The organisation also said in light of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, the president shouldn’t be part of the Chairman’s Conversation.

“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,” the letter read.

“We hope that you will take our appeal seriously. We hope that you will send a strong message that no men are untouchable when it comes to violence against women.”

Despite the Mkhari family opting to deal with their assault allegations privately, The Wise Collective said the incident might have happened in private, but it had “tremendous public consequences” that called for every citizen to be accountable.

“Holding each other accountable is a critical element of how we will win against this scourge that’s gripping the nation. As such, we at The Wise Collective believe it is in poor taste for the honourable president to participate in this Chairman’s Conversation with not only someone who has been accused of domestic violence but also one who refuses to account to the very public he uses to espouse values of transparency and power of speaking out.”

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