Cyril Ramaphosa was elected and sworn in as South Africa’s new president by the National Assembly on Thursday, a day after the deeply unpopular Jacob Zuma was forced to resign by the ruling party.
Ramaphosa, 65, was the sole candidate put forward by the National Assembly and takes up the top post almost two decades after he was favoured by Nelson Mandela as his successor, only to be pushed aside by the party in favour of Thabo Mbeki.
In a short acceptance speech in Parliament, Ramaphosa said he faced a humbling task and would try his best to serve all South Africans.
“I thank you for the honour that you’ve bestowed on me by electing me into this position, I truly feel humbled to have been given this great privilege of being able to serve our people.
“South Africa must come first in everything that we all do,” he stressed.
He promised to tackle corruption and a massive rent-seeking scandal that has lost state-owned companies billions and embroiled Zuma, his son Duduzane and several Cabinet ministers. The issue was “on our radar screens”, he said.
Ramaphosa responded directly to the congratulatory remarks from each opposition leader, including the biting address of Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane who told the ANC was the scourge of the country, not Zuma alone and the party would be punished in the 2019 national elections.
He told Maimane to cut down on the grandstanding and work with him for the good of the country in the lead-up to the elections.
He ended his speech with the promise that “I will try very hard not to disappoint the people of South Africa”.
It was pushed back to allow the political crisis around Zuma’s fate to be resolved. That ended on Wednesday evening as he stepped down in a late-night televised address in which he said he did not wish to divide the ANC but berated the party for not giving him firm reasons for demanding that he quit.
Had he failed to resign, the ANC would have removed him from power by backing a motion of no confidence tabled by the Economic Freedom Front.
With the motion falling away, the EFF was robbed of the opportunity to claim that the ANC rode on their ticket to topple the president.
They still tried to make a stir on Thursday before Ramaphosa’s election by MPs, by demanding that Speaker Baleka Mbete allow a motion to dissolve Parliament and so that the country had to hold early elections. Mbete objected, saying the motion needed proper notice, and EFF MPs responded saying Ramaphosa could not be trusted, then walked out of the chamber in protest.
The EFF argue that Ramaphosa was tainted by his role in arguing for police action ahead of the shooting of 34 striking miners at Marikana in 2012, and are expected to prove relentless opponents, as they had with Zuma.
– African News Agency (ANA)