New Delhi: US President Donald Trump may have turned down India’s invitation to the Republic Day event but the chief guest’s chair won’t go vacant in 2019. Reports on Thursday suggested that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been invited. According to The Indian Express, Ramaphosa, who became South Africa’s President in February this year, has accepted the invitation. (Also read: Cong Hits Out at Centre After Trump Rejects R-Day Invite)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met Ramaphosa on the sidelines of BRICS summit in June. The SA President is reportedly a Gandhi follower who led 5,000-odd people at the annual ‘Gandhi Walk’ in Lenasia, a township south of Johannesburg. That was the first time that a sitting head of the state joined the walk.

Ramaphosa served as the Deputy President of South Africa from 2014 to 2018. The report said that the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which celebrates Gandhi’s return from South Africa, has been shifted to the second half of January to coincide with the Republic Day celebrations.

While 10 leaders from ASEAN countries were the chief guests this year, the Republic Day event has been attended by then US President Barack Obama, then French President Francois Hollande and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the past.

As far as Trump’s turning down the invitation is concerned, sources told the daily that the US President’s State of the Union address would be around the same time, so his administration could not confirm his availability.

When Ramaphosa took over the reins of his country, he pledged for an economic and political turnaround and appealed to the citizens that the country was entering a new dawn and promised to turn the tide on corruption, according to media reports.

“We should put behind us the era of diminishing trust in public institutions and weakened confidence in our country’s public leaders. We should put all the negativity that has dogged our country behind us because a new dawn is upon,” he said in the South African Parliament.

“This is the year in which we will turn the tide of corruption in our public institutions,” he said while attacking the “plunder of public resources” by South African politicians and business people.