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South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa takes oath of office

Replaces scandal-tainted Jacob Zuma as country's president

  • South Africa's new president Cyril Ramaphosa (right) is sworn into office by South Africa's Chief JustImage Credit: AFP
  • South African National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete (left) applauds Cyril Ramaphosa (right) on February 15, 2Image Credit: AFP
  • Members of Parliament applaud Cyril Ramaphosa (front right) in Cape Town before his swearing in as South AfricImage Credit: AFP

South Africa: Cyril Ramaphosa has taken the oath of office as South Africa's president after his election in parliament.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng presided over the swearing-in ceremony on Thursday at the presidential office in Cape Town. Mogoeng congratulated Ramaphosa and shook his hand as onlookers applauded.

 

Earlier in the day, lawmakers elected Cyril Ramaphosa as the country's new president after scandal-tainted Jacob Zuma resigned under pressure from his own African National Congress (ANC) ruling party.

Ramaphosa was elected without a vote after being the only candidate nominated in the parliament in Cape Town, chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng told assembled lawmakers.

However, while his nomination went unopposed in the 400-seat National Assembly, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters walked out of the chamber after arguing that early elections should be called and the appointment would be illegal.

"Corruption, how we can straighten out SOEs (state-owned companies) and how we deal with state capture is on our radar screen,"  Ramaphosa said after Chief Justice Mogoeng had declared him the president, referring to state-owned companies.

Ramaphosa, 65, will be sworn in by Chief Justice Mogoeng later in the day and is due to deliver his first state-of the nation address on Friday. He staked his claim to the top post when he replaced Zuma as leader of the African National Congress almost two months ago.

A former lawyer and one of the richest black South Africans, Ramaphosa has promised to revive the struggling economy, create jobs and tackle corruption. His appointment more than a year before national elections could help the ANC win back voters alienated by a succession of scandals, policy missteps and inappropriate appointments during Zuma's nine-year tenure.

The power shift has cheered investors with the rand gaining the most of any currency against since Ramaphosa's election as ANC president on December 18. It was close to a three year high of 11.6617 per dollar at 2.34pm

However, while Ramaphosa succeeded in outmaneuvering Zuma since his tight election as ANC president, the road ahead is perilous - the party remains deeply divided, the cabinet needs a clean-out and a moribund economy requires a jump-start.

The first signal of Ramaphosa's intentions may come in the state-of-the-nation address. The keynote speech was postponed on Feb. 6, two days before Zuma was due to deliver it, due to the turmoil within the ruling party.

Zuma's Cabinet

While Zuma's cabinet doesn't have to resign, Ramaphosa will be able to hire and fire ministers as he sees fit. With the national budget due to be presented to Parliament on Feb. 21, investors will be watching to see if he retains Malusi Gigaba as finance minister.

Growth has averaged just 1.6 percent a year since Zuma took office in 2009, undermined partly by policy decisions and inappropriate appointments that rocked investor and business confidence. Disgruntlement with his rule caused support for the ANC to fall to a record low in 2016 municipal elections and cost it control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital.

"The new president is going to have to make tough decisions on who is in his cabinet and that's where the tough fight is going to be from now on,"  said Ivor Sarakinsky, academic director at the University of the Witwatersrand's School of Governance in Johannesburg.

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