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South Africa leader pokes fun at himself after viral face mask fumble


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at NASREC Expo Centre in Johannesburg on April 24, 2020, where facilities are in place to treat COVID-19 coronavirus patients. – South Africa’s five-week coronavirus lockdown will be slowly eased from May 1, 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on April 23, 2020, as he sought a balance between protecting people and letting them earn a living. (Photo by Jerome Delay / POOL / AFP)

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday poked fun at himself for clumsily fumbling with his face mask during a televised speech, a move that attracted widespread laughter on social media.

The president awkwardly pulled a colourful fabric mask over his eyes after announcing an easing of lockdown restrictions on Thursday night, prompting instant reactions on Twitter by amused viewers.

The hashtags #facemaskchallenge and #CyrilMaskChallenge were trending on Friday as South Africans humoured their president by posting captioned images of Ramaphosa and pictures of themselves in impromptu face coverings.


“For those who were laughing at me yesterday, let me tell you something,” Ramaphosa told reporters during a hospital tour on Friday.

“I am going to open a TV channel where I will teach people how to put on a mask,” he chuckled. “You can enrol.” 

Ramaphosa’s mask incident lightened the mood in a country entering the fifth week of a strict nationwide lockdown and where the number of coronavirus cases — 3,953 to date — is the highest in Africa.

“Kudos to our president,” said one Twitter post. “At least he’s got a sense of humour.”

Another Twitter user noted the “sign language lady” locked bewildered and ran out of signs during the mask struggle. 

“I don’t think Mr President will mind,” she tweeted. “We have more than enough sulk moments. Let’s laugh a little.”

Ramaphosa has called on all South Africans to wear face masks as the lockdown is set to be gradually phased out from May 1.


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