After President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the African Union (AU) chairperson, revealed on Thursday that he had communicated with US President Donald Trump about the global coronavirus pandemic, he went into more detail about what the two had discussed.
Speaking outside Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg on Friday, where he was conducting an inspection, he said that Trump had “initiated the conversation; he wanted to speak to me”.
Ramaphosa said he had spoken to many world leaders recently in a spirit of global solidarity and Trump had, for one, been “most impressed” from reports about how South Africa was managing the Covid-19 threat.
Ramaphosa said they had not discussed the US’s withdrawal funding to the World Health Organisation (WHO), but South Africa’s position remained that funding should not be cut but rather increased.
Ramaphosa on Thursday said that Trump had “pledged his support to South Africa and Africa in our fight against the coronavirus”.
He said that he had also spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had also pledged support to South Africa while saying that Germany was willing to learn from South Africa’s experiences.
Ramaphosa went on to praise the media for its accurate information thus far during the crisis.
On Thursday, Ramaphosa had described the call with Trump as “productive” and that he’d used it to pass on “our condolences” to Trump’s government and the US people “on the devastation the virus has wrought”.
The US has become the epicentre of the virus and has suffered the highest total number of fatalities so far globally.
Trump recently announced the US’s withdrawal from the WHO, which he accused of mismanaging the pandemic in allegedly being too China-centric and allowing China to allegedly get away with a lack of transparency on the facts about the pandemic in China, where the virus first emerged.
The South African government last week expressed “serious concern” that Trump decided to cut funding to the WHO with immediate effect; US funding accounts for 15% – about $400 million – of the WHO’s total budget.
“It is alarming that this very regrettable decision is announced as this deadly virus strikes Africa and the poorest and most vulnerable states,” said the South African government in a statement last Thursday.
The US government this week committed an additional R250 million to South Africa to aid in its Covid-19 efforts, bringing the total value of US aid to South Africa to R410 million.
According to a statement from the US embassy, the funding would used to support Centres for Disease Control and Preventions operations, along with lab work and surveillance efforts, be used for infection and prevention control, border health and vaccine preparedness and special studies related to Covid-19.
“This latest injection of assistance is in addition to the approximately $8.4 million (nearly R160 million) in health assistance to support South Africa’s Covid-19 response already committed through the US Agency for International Development,” the embassy explained. “It is an honour for the United States to partner in South Africa’s campaign to fight Covid-19,” they added.
— Cyril Ramaphosa ???????? #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) April 23, 2020