The United Nations has expressed both regret and understanding at the decision by President Cyril Ramaphosa to skip this year’s UN General Assembly. The Presidency earlier confirmed that International Relations Minister, Naledi Pandor, will lead the South African delegation to the 74th session and related meetings and events in New York, including an urgent Climate Change Summit convened by the Secretary-General.

The high-level segment of United National General Assembly (UNGA) was due to kick off on September 24.

UN secretary general’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric says they however still look forward to interacting with the delegation.

“We’ve heard the news, we obviously regret that the President will not be here but it’s a decision that governments make all the time for whatever reasons that they change the head of the delegation at the last minute.

“I think what is very important for us is that South Africa will be represented at a very high level and the Secretary-General very much looks forward to engaging with the SA Foreign Minister and the rest of the delegation during the General Assembly.”

Ramaphosa decided to remain in South Africa to attend to domestic matters, that included growing concerns around violence against women, instability that has included attacks against foreigners and a struggling economy.

South African Ambassador, Jerry Matjila, says the delegation will be able to carry out responsibilities as assigned by Ramaphosa. “It is understandable, but this has not affected the intensity and the numerous engagements SA has been arranging for UNGA, summits, bilaterals because we should keep the pace and I think the Minister and other Ministers will be able to carry the responsibilities assigned by President Ramaphosa.”

Former President Jacob Zuma also stayed away from the summit, in 2010, to deal with internal matters of the ruling party. Former President Thabo Mbeki missed the session in 2008 after acceding to a demand from the ANC that he step down as head of state.