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Ramaphosa pulls out of Power FM’s Chairman’s Conversation

The Presidency said in a statement that ‘upon careful consideration’, Ramaphosa heeded the call by The Wise Collective and the Soul City Institute not to participate in the event.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa has decided to withdraw from this year’s Chairman’s Conversation hosted by Power FM following concerns raised by civil society organisations over assault allegations previously faced by the station’s boss and MSG Afrika chairperson, Given Mkhari.

Just a few hours before the event was slated for Thursday evening in Johannesburg, the Presidency said in a statement that “upon careful consideration”, Ramaphosa would heed the call by The Wise Collective and the Soul City Institute not to participate in the event.

“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,” Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said though the statement on Thursday.

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.

**LAST MINUTE MEETING **

The Presidency said it noted that the Mkharis had met with representatives of “certain civil society organisations” and senior officials in the Presidency on Thursday, but unfortunately, the resolution reached by the parties was too late to ensure his participation in the event.

“The Presidency emphasises that the non-participation of President Ramaphosa should not be read as an endorsement of the untested allegations raised by the civil society organisations but a carefully weighed up decision taken in the public interest,” the statement read.

Ramaphosa’s office also apologised for “any inconvenience caused to the listeners of Power FM, other media partners and the sponsors of the event.”

The Wise Collective and the Soul City Institute had written to Ramaphosa this month appealing to him not to take part in the Chairman’s Conversation after they accused Mkhari of refusing to account for his involvement in gender-based violence and considering the event was taking place in the first week of the annual 16 Days of Activism of No Violence against Women and Children.

“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 said in its letter dated 22 November 2019.

The Soul City Institute in its letter to the president, dated 26 November 2019, said Mkhari hadn’t “bothered to respect his listeners enough to explain himself and his unacceptable conduct”.

“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.

The Chairman’s Conversation hosted by Mkhari would have been in its third instalment this year. Previously featured prominent guests to the event included former President Thabo Mbeki and billionaire businessperson Johann Rupert.

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