• Pledges not to disappoint citizens
South Africa’s new president yesterday pledged to tackle endemic corruption and supervise mismanagement in state-owned enterprises
Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, also promised to work hard “not to disappoint the people of South Africa.” He was elected president in a parliamentary vote yesterday after the resignation of scandal-ridden Jacob Zuma, 75, on orders from the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Ramaphosa will serve out the remainder of Zuma’s term until 2019 elections. Seen as an ally of Zuma, Ramaphosa was appointed deputy president in 2014. Zuma resigned on Wednesday after years of scandals that damaged the stature of the ruling African National Congress party.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng presided over the swearing-in ceremony at the presidential office in Cape Town. Mogoeng congratulated Ramaphosa and shook his hand as onlookers applauded. Mogoeng had earlier read out the former president’s resignation letter.
Opposition leaders, however, said the ruling party protected Zuma for years despite scandals and would be unable to effectively root out corruption within its own ranks. Ramaphosa also said one of the first things he wants to do is have a meeting with the leaders of other political parties “so we can try and find a way of working together.” He said he will outline his policies in a state of the nation address tomorrow evening.
Ramaphosa was the only candidate nominated for election in the parliament after opposition parties said they would not participate. ANC has a majority in the 400-member parliament The opposition instead unsuccessfully called for the dissolution of the National Assembly and early elections. They said ANC party plan to elect a new president was “illegitimate.”
The Democratic Alliance said that the parliament should be dissolved and new national elections should be held because the ruling party-dominated assembly failed to hold Zuma to account for alleged corruption. Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFFP) has made a similar statement.
Zuma said in a 30-minute farewell address to the nation he disagreed with the way the ANC had thrust him toward an early exit after Ramaphosa replaced him as party president, but would accept its orders. Observers said Zuma’s departure late on Wednesday provided evidence of the strength of South Africa’s democratic institutions, from the courts to the media and the constitution.
Zuma, a former member of the ANC’s military wing in the days of apartheid, rose through the ranks of the party to become president. He led the country for more than a third of its time after apartheid.
“Defiant in defeat” and “Going, Going, Gone” were among the newspaper headlines that captured Zuma’s unwillingness to leave. “South Africa’s long nightmare is over,” read the headline from online political news website Daily Maverick. The EFF, which has six percent of the seats in parliament, had sponsored a no-confidence motion in Zuma that would have gone ahead yesterday had Zuma not jumped.
The rand, which has gained ground whenever Zuma ran into political turbulence, soared to a near three-year high against the dollar on word of his resignation. South Africa’s main stock market index jumped nearly 4 percent and headed for its biggest one-day gain in more than two years as investors hailed Zuma’s exit after nine years in office rife with allegations of sleaze and mismanagement.
Ratings agency Moody’s said it was closely monitoring developments in South Africa, focusing on the policy implications of Zuma’s political demise.
The S&P Global agency said South Africa’s sovereign credit ratings and outlook will not be immediately affected by the change of the country’s leadership.
…Faces uphill task
President Cyril Ramaphosa raised the hope of South Africans when he vowed to steer the country from the turmoil that has hurt the economy and briefly sent it into recession last year.
However he faces an uphill task in three areas: Corruption has ruptured the economic structures of the country with both local and foreign investors losing confidence in the system; the 2019 general elections poses another major challenge with a divided ANC which lost key municipalities including Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria in 2016; youth restiveness and xenophobia attacks on non South Africans is yet another challenge he may have inherited from the Zuma administration.
He knows this. He has said, he will be “walking a tightrope, balancing the competing priorities of holding his party together while avoiding economic disaster.” But how he intends to bring the turn around is what South Africans and indeed the world is eagerly waiting to see.
“Cyril Ramaphosa inherits an alarming mess from Jacob Zuma,” said Ben Payton, head of Africa research for Verisk Maplecroft told reporters. Restoring confidence in the troubled mining sector, ending the corruption around state-owned enterprises and winning over Zuma’s supporters within the ANC should be among his top priorities, Payton said.