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Ramaphosa focuses on the poor as he seeks party re-election

In this Nov 9, 2022 file photo, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks to the media at State House in Nairobi, Kenya. (KHALIL SENOSI / AP)

JOHANNESBURG – President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the plight of poor South Africans left out of nearly three decades of post-apartheid prosperity, he promised on Sunday ahead of a governing party election that will decide if he can run for a second term.

Ramaphosa was concluding the African National Congress (ANC) executive committee meeting before an elective conference next month chooses the party's candidate for 2024 national elections.

Ramaphosa added that the global cost of living crisis had worsened the poor's plight and that the ANC would seek to enlarge the system of social grants that was expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic and has proved popular among working class ANC voters

The president faces multiple challenges from within the party, mostly allied to his predecessor Jacob Zuma. Much may depend on whether Ramaphosa is seen as the best candidate to revive the fortunes of the ANC, the popularity of which is at an all-time low.

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"No political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty; without land, without tangible prospects for a better life," Ramaphosa said in his speech.

"Attacking poverty and deprivation must therefore be the first priority of a democratic government."

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Ramaphosa added that the global cost of living crisis had worsened the poor's plight and that the ANC would seek to enlarge the system of social grants that was expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic and has proved popular among working class ANC voters.

He also pledged to forge ahead with policies to improve the standard of public education and introduce universal health insurance.

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The ANC's black empowerment initiatives were also mentioned, with Ramaphosa saying the measures need to be more "broad-based". The initiatives have created some extremely wealthy black businessmen, Ramaphosa included, but done little to lift millions out of poverty.