Cyril Ramaphosa, a lifelong comrade of Nelson Mandela, became South Africa’s president a day after Jacob Zuma resigned following allegations of corruption and nepotism. The change of guard at the Union Building in Pretoria and Tuynhuys in Cape Town captured the imagination of the global press this week.
Bloomberg ran a sharp editorial noting that the transition in South Africa could herald glad tidings for the rest of Africa. “President Jacob Zuma’s resignation is good news not just for South Africa, but also for its neighbours and the world. It offers the chance to reclaim one of history’s most momentous opportunities — the post-apartheid pursuit of equality, justice and prosperity, with oppressed and one-time oppressors joined in common cause. If South Africa succeeds, it can transform the prospects for the rest of the continent. If it fails, the rest of Africa will be set back. The country’s new leaders have the fate of South Africa’s citizens in their hands — and that of hundreds of millions beyond its borders.” The edit went on to predict that although repairing some sectors like education will take much longer, the country needs to reinvent itself. “Above all, the ANC needs to reinvent itself as a modern political party — rather than a national liberation movement without real purpose except to vent grievance and entitlement. The same test presents itself in Angola and Zimbabwe, where new leaders are also in place. If South Africa can lead the way in this next political revolution, Zuma’s exit will be a moment of global significance.”
The Washington Post carried an edit hailing the change of guard in Cape Town. “The good news is that the political system survived — and, in the end, expelled Zuma. The two-term president was forced to step down by the threat of a parliamentary vote of no-confidence, and he was succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa, a stalwart of the ruling African National Congress. South Africa’s liberal institutions ultimately checked the abuse of power, a worthy example on a continent where strongmen such as Congo’s Joseph Kabila and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta have flouted democratic norms. Rooting out the corruption now embedded throughout South African government will not be the new president’s only daunting task. He also must face the country’s yawning economic inequality, an enduring legacy of white minority rule. Pressure for populist policies is growing: Under Zuma, the ANC adopted a proposal to change the constitution so that farmland, much of it still owned by whites, could be forcibly seized and redistributed.”
South African newspaper Business Day noted that the grand Zuma charade has finally ended. “The overwhelming sense of Zuma was of a man who lives in a universe of his own creation. He was oblivious to the damage he had done both to the country and to his party. He was oblivious to the messages so many emissaries had conveyed to him in the past two weeks. And, most shocking of all, he appeared genuinely oblivious to the charge that in his time as president he might have done something wrong,” the website editorialised.
In its op-ed the Daily Maverick linked Zuma’s ouster to nepotism and his association with shady businesses. “Corruption is not only a problem in the public sector. The recent failures in companies such as Steinhoff, the corruption associated with the Guptas, the outrageous earnings in the upper echelons of the corporate sector, and the questionable ethics of some of our auditing firms highlights the need for government to adequately regulate economic activity in the private sector. President Ramaphosa needs to act decisively to restore our confidence in the private sector just as much as he does for the public sector. South Africans of all walks of life have played a role in ending the Zuma years of corruption and economic mismanagement and, once again, creating the possibility to hope for a better future for all South Africans. We have a responsibility to hold the new leadership to achieving the goal of a society envisioned in our Constitution,” the paper concluded.