South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will skip the United Nations General Assembly this month and instead focus on dealing with rising violence and the country’s struggling economy.
Ramaphosa “decided to remain in South Africa to attend to the implementation of government’s urgent measures on gender-based violence, the restoration of order and stability in areas affected by public violence, and to oversee initiatives to turn around the economy,” his spokeswoman, Khusela Diko, said in a statement Thursday.
South Africa has faced a spate of deadly xenophobic attacks in recent weeks that left at least 12 dead and led to the arrests of more that 600 people. Crime statistics released on Thursday show the country’s murder rate increased 3.4% in the year through March to the highest in a decade.
Thousands of protesters filled the streets of the country’s major cities last week to demand the government declare a state of emergency after the killing of a number of women sparked outrage. Another “national shutdown” march calling for action to end gender-based violence is scheduled to take place on Friday in the Sandton business district.
Ramaphosa is also grappling with how to revive an economy that the central bank says will expand a meagre 0.6% this year, and contending with a 29% unemployment rate and mounting public discontent over high levels of inequality.