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Ramaphosa win revives youth hopes in Soweto

Jo’burg, Wednesday

Cyril Ramaphosa’s victory in the ANC leadership battle has sparked renewed hope among many in South Africa’s Soweto township where he grew up — and where frustration with the party has been mounting.

“He is a model because he is one person that came out of the township and became a great businessman in this world,” said 21-year-old student Charlie Khoza from the Tshawelo district of Soweto. He was among a group of six young men standing on a street corner bathed in sunlight, drinking canned sodas the day after Ramaphosa’s decisive victory in the tight leadership race.

Their optimism for the probable future president and former trade unionist turned businessman was widely shared. In the less well-off Chiawele district of Soweto, just streets away from where Ramaphosa was born 65 years ago, Niseman Baleyi, 39, was cutting hair to the rhythm of traditional music.

A father of two and a barber for 20 years, Niseman is increasingly struggling to make ends meet. But he is optimistic that the election of a multimillionaire to lead the African National Congress will mean an economic renaissance for South Africa where more than a quarter of people are jobless.

As well as soaring unemployment, Africa’s most industrialised economy has suffered as big companies deterred by political uncertainty have opted to swell their cash reserves rather than investing in expansion or job creation.

Tanking investor confidence has led to a spate of credit ratings downgrades that have driven up the cost of government borrowing. “People are going to look at South Africa in a different way and are going to come to create jobs for the youth,” said Khoza.

To have a chance of keeping the ANC in power, Ramaphosa will have a serious task to persuade South Africans who feel let down by the storied anti-apartheid party. Among the pledges the ruling party has struggled to deliver are free university tuition, quality housing, jobs and the redistribution of wealth to the black majority. — AFP

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