Thursday 12 December 2019

Cyril Ramaphosa set to become new South African president

Former leader Jacob Zuma resigned late on Wednesday.

Cyril Ramaphosa (AP)
Cyril Ramaphosa (AP)

By Christopher Torchia

South Africa’s ruling party says it will nominate acting president Cyril Ramaphosa to be elected as the country’s new leader in a parliamentary vote on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Ramaphosa was elected leader of the ruling African National Congress in December and had been poised to succeed former president Jacob Zuma, who resigned late on Wednesday.

The ANC ordered Mr Zuma to step down after the party was weakened by multiple corruption allegations around him. He has denied wrongdoing.

The country’s new president will be sworn in after the vote in the 400-member parliament and is then expected to address the chamber.

Jacob Zuma addresses the nation and the press on Wednesday (AP/Themba Hadebe)

Mr Ramaphosa is expected to finish his predecessor’s term, which ends with elections next year.

Mr Zuma resigned in a televised speech late on Wednesday after the ANC, which has lost popularity because of corruption scandals during his tenure, instructed him to leave or face a parliamentary motion of no confidence that he would almost certainly lose.

The office of parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete said she had received a letter of resignation from Mr Zuma, and chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng would be available to swear in the new president in parliament later in the day.

The new president will also deliver the postponed state of the nation address on Friday evening. Mr Zuma had been unable to give the speech because of the leadership crisis.

The South African currency, the rand, strengthened against the dollar in early trading on Thursday after Mr Zuma’s resignation, which ended political turmoil that had stalled some government business.

Mr Ramaphosa has promised to fight corruption, although he faces the hard task of rejuvenating a ruling party whose leaders had supported Mr Zuma for years before finally turning against him.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation welcomed his departure but said the state must act against “networks of criminality” that have hurt South Africa’s democracy.

On the centenary of the anti-apartheid leader’s 1918 birth, “there is a need to reckon with the failures of the democratic era”, the foundation said.

“We believe that we are at a critical moment in our history, one which offers us the unique opportunity to reflect, to rebuild, and to transform.”

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