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South Africa: Ramaphosa sworn in as president

February 15, 2018

A day after Jacob Zuma's nine years in office ended, fellow ANC politician Cyril Ramaphosa took the presidential oath amid parliamentary protest. Ramaphosa promised to fight the corruption that had tainted Zuma.

New South African president Cyril Ramaphosa takes his oath of office
Image: Reuters/M. Hutchings

Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as South Africa's new president on Thursday, following the resignation of former incumbent and scandal-ridden Jacob Zuma.

Ramaphosa was elected without a vote after being the only candidate nominated in the parliament in Cape Town, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said, though opposition parties boycotted the vote.

The new president is expected to deliver the postponed state of the nation address on Friday evening. The South African parliament announced the ceremonial details on Twitter.

Read more: South Africa - The rise and fall of the ANC

Corruption issues 'on our radar'

A number of scandals surrounding Zuma had seriously damaged the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). Zuma was removed as president effective immediately after he handed in his resignation letter on Thursday.

Ramaphosa said tackling corruption and mismanagement in state-owned enterprises would be a priority of his administration. "I will try to work very hard not to disappoint the people of South Africa," he said following his election.

Read more: Opinion: Cyril Ramaphosa must get down to business right away

"The issues that you have raised, issues that have to do with corruption, issues of how we can straighten out our state-owned enterprises and how we deal with state capture are issues that are on our radar screen," the 65-year-old added.

Read more: South Africa's President Zuma: A chronology of scandal

Opposition opted out of vote: The two main opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), both refused to vote for Ramaphosa. As parliament began its sitting, EFF members became disruptive and eventually walked out.

The leader of the major opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party, Mmusi Maimane, noted with skepticism that Ramaphosa also belonged to the scandal-plagued ANC: "We don't have a Jacob Zuma problem, we have an ANC problem."  

However, he said the DA would cooperate with Ramaphosa if he acted in the interests of the South African people.

Who is Cyril Ramaphosa: Ramaphosa was elected leader of the ANC in December 2017, narrowly beating Zuma's chosen successor — his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Ramaphosa had also been deputy president under Zuma. He is a former union leader-turned-businessman and is one of South Africa's wealthiest people.

Read more: Zuma's exit lifts South African stocks

Past achievements: Ramaphosa played a key role in founding the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions, and as secretary general of the ANC in the early 1990s, he was part of the team that negotiated the end of apartheid and drafted South Africa's new progressive constitution. In his business ventures, Ramaphosa brought the McDonald's franchise to South Africa. In 2015 Forbes magazine estimated him to be worth more than $450 million (€360.4 million).

Reactions on the street: Ordinary South Africans greeted Zuma's departure and Ramaphosa's swearing-in with optimism. 

Samushle Mhlongo told DW that, "I think Ramaphosa is going to do an amazing job and I have the confidence that he has the ability to do that and improve the country’s economy."

Ramaphosa's business background has helped boost people's confidence in his ability to improve the country's economic performance.

"I feel it is going to be better, a new change for the country. Our people can get more jobs, creating jobs for the young people," Banjamin Matou told DW. "We think he can do that for us because he is a businessman as well. It’s going to be a better future for all of us because he knows the business."

cmb, law/rt (AFP, Reuters)

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