Ramaphosa takes over as S African president

Johannesburg, Thursday

Cyril Ramaphosa has become South Africa’s president after embattled leader Jacob Zuma resigned. He was the only candidate nominated in parliament today so no vote was needed to make him president.

MPs from the ruling African National Congress broke into song at the announcement. In a speech to parliament Ramaphosa, 65, said that corruption was on his radar. Ramaphosa used his first speech to vow to fight government corruption, in a direct reference to accusations levelled against his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

“Issues 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,” he told lawmakers in parliament.

“Those are issues we are going to be addressing and tomorrow we will also have an opportunity to outline some of the steps we are going to be taking,” said Ramaphosa, who got a standing ovation at the end of the speech.

Ramaphosa, a wealthy former businessman, will deliver his first State of the Nation address tomorrow. South African lawmakers formally named Ramaphosa, the only candidate, as new president after scandal-tainted Zuma resigned under intense pressure from the ruling ANC party.

‘State capture’ refers to alleged corruption of state institutions and state-owned businesses by private individuals seeking illegal profits. Zuma announced his resignation late Wednesday, and aimed barbs at the African National Congress (ANC) party for vowing to oust him via a no-confidence vote in parliament. It is often said that Ramaphosa has had his eye on the position of president since the ANC came to power in 1994.

The story goes that he was so upset at not having been chosen by Nelson Mandela as his successor that he left politics and went into business. But Ramaphosa has now finally realised that dream.

He has said his priority is reviving South Africa’s battered economy. But it will not be easy — unemployment is currently at 30 per cent, a rate which rises to nearly 40 per cent for young people. Low growth rates and dwindling investor confidence were compounded by two credit agencies downgrading the economy to junk status. —AFP & BBC

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