South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to be the chief guest at the 2019 Republic Day parade, official sources said here.

Ramaphosa will be the second leader from South Africa to attend India’s Republic Day parade as the chief guest. Former President Nelson Mandela was the chief guest at the 1995 Republic Day parade.

Ramaphosa will take part in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations, which commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s return to India from South Africa. This year, the PBD will take place from 21-23 January in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The date was moved from 9 January to the second half of the month so that it coincides with Republic Day celebrations.

Earlier, the government had extended an invitation to US President Donald Trump to be Republic Day guest but he expressed his inability citing “scheduling conflicts”.

READ | Donald Trump declines Republic Day invite, cites ‘scheduling constraints’

The South African leader is a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. A few months back, he led as many as 5,000 people at the annual ‘Gandhi Walk’ event organised at Lenasia, a few kilometres from Johannesburg, in an attempt to promote fitness and community awareness. India and South Africa are making efforts to develop bilateral relations in order to boost trade and investment relations.

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Ramaphosa on the sidelines of the BRICS summit held in Johannesburg. During the meet, their two countries signed memoranda of understanding in the areas of defence, trade, culture, agriculture, and dairy cooperation.

It may be recalled US President Donald Trump had been invited to be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in 2019. The White House, however, communicated to India in October that he was unable to participate in the parade due to “scheduling constraints”.

Modi had during their talks in Washington last year invited US President Donald Trump for a bilateral visit to India. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had said Trump had received an invitation to visit India but no decision had been taken yet.

“President Trump was honoured by Prime Minister Modi’s invitation for him to be the chief guest of India’s Republic Day on January 26, 2019, but is unable to participate due to scheduling constraints,” a White House spokesperson said in October this year.

“The President very much looks forward to meeting Prime Minister Modi again at the earliest opportunity,” the spokesperson had added.