Newly-elected South African President Cyril Ramaphosa arrived at the national capital Friday to attend the annual Republic Day parade as its chief guest, marking his first visit to India as a head of state.
This makes him the second South African president, after Nelson Mandela, to grace the Republic Day celebrations.
His attendance at the Red Fort, while tableaux and regiments march along Rajpath, will underscore the commemoration of the 150th year of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth.
The visit of a diplomat
Ramaphosa is accompanied by First Lady
He is expected to sign a document outlining a three-year roadmap for India and South Africa’s strategic alliance, over his 2-day visit.
India is his last stop in a world tour that has taken him to Davos, Ethiopia, Geneva over the last week. After the Republic Day celebrations, Ramaphosa is also expected to deliver the Gandhi-Mandela Freedom address at the Indian Council of World Affairs.
“India and South Africa enjoy a close and multi-faceted strategic partnership since 1997, which is underpinned by historic[sic], cultural and economic linkages,” the MEA said in a statement. The two nations share several global visions and collaborate on several multilateral forums like the UN, BRICS, G-20, Commonwealth, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and IBSA.
The “catch-all” deal envisions partnerships in defence and security, political and trade relations, investment, tourism, technology and agriculture. Both leaders are expected to also deliberate on blue economy, counter-terrorism, FATP, visa programmes and cyber security.
Ramaphosa’s career and the Gandhi connect
The South African president, who is an ardent follower of Gandhian principles, is scheduled to speak about the Father of the Nation, who spent a considerable portion of his early legal career in the African continent. It was during the apartheid movement that Gandhi
In February 2018, following Jacob Zuma’s resignation, Ramaphosa was elected as South Africa’s president by the National Assembly. But his reputation as a seasoned politician precedes him, even before he stepped into national politics.
Born in Soweto in 1952, Ramaphosa is still widely
After graduating in 1981, Ramaphosa joined an independent trade union movement, the Council of Unions of South Africa (CUSA), founding the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) next year. As its general secretary, he was responsible for the elevation of NUM into the most powerful union at the time.
He also famously led mineworkers in one of the biggest strikes in South Africa’s history in 1987. He is believed to have played a crucial part in the transformation of labour relations in the mining industry under the apartheid government. But the first time he made national headlines was when he introduced Nelson Mandela to a sea of supporters outside the Cape Town City Hall, where Mandela delivered his first public speech in 30 years.
After South Africa held its first democratic election in 1994, Ramaphosa became a member of Parliament and was later elected chairperson of the constitutional assembly. He oversaw the drafting of South Africa’s globally acclaimed Constitution.
Ramaphosa first met Modi in June, at the BRICS Summit in the South African capital Johannesburg, which is where Modi reportedly extended the invitation, according to official sources in the Indian government. It was keeping Gandhi’s birth anniversary in mind that the Centre chose to invite Ramaphosa, said people close to the planning of the event.
Reports that US President Donald Trump had turned down the invitation first, also emerged last year. “President Trump was
With the US government currently undergoing a record shutdown, Trump will not be addressing both Houses of the US Congress for the annual State of the Union (SOTU).
Order of events
The event on Saturday will begin with the laying of
Besides Ramaphosa, fifty-eight guests from various indigenous tribes of the country, 22 tableaux representing the diversity of Indian states and central government departments, followed by performances by school children will mark the 90-minute parade of this year’s Republic Day.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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