Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to create jobs and tackle deep-rooted corruption in government as he was sworn in as South Africa’s president on Saturday.
In a report through independent.co.uk, the trade unionist-turned-businessman – who becomes the country’s fourth democratically elected president since the end of apartheid – took the presidential oath before a crowd of about 32,000 people in a rugby stadium in Pretoria.
“Today our nation enters a new era of hope and renewal,” said Mr Ramaphosa, flanked by foreign leaders including Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
“Let us forge a compact for growth and economic opportunities, for productive land and wider opportunities … A compact of an efficient, capable and ethical state. A state that is free from corruption,” said the 66-year-old, a former anti-apartheid activist.
Mr Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) clinched a 57.5 per cent majority in a general election earlier in May, down from 62 per cent in 2014 as voters turned against the ruling party due to government corruption scandals and record unemployment.
He narrowly won the ANC leadership race in late 2017 and replaced scandal-plagued predecessor Jacob Zuma as state president in February 2018, a year before the latter’s term was due to expire.
Since then he has struggled to heal divisions in the party. Some remain firm opposed to his reform plans, especially at the cash-strapped state power supplier Eskom.
The challenges facing Mr Ramaphosa were highlighted on Friday by the resignation of Eskom’s chief executive Phakamani Hadebe, who quit only a year since he was appointed to stabilise the public utility after nationwide blackouts.
The South African economy is set to shrink in the first quarter after mining and manufacturing weakened, prompting the central bank to cut its 2019 growth forecast to 1 per cent.
“The challenges our country faces are huge and are real but they are not insurmountable. They can be solved and I stand here to say they are going to be solved,” Mr Ramaphosa said in his speech on Saturday.
Many in the crowd at the Loftus stadium in the South African capital were optimistic. “I love my president Cyril Ramaphosa. I know that as long as we have him here he is going to give us jobs and change many things,” said Patience Shabangu, 45, a volunteer at a local clinic.
Political analysts say a key test of Mr Ramaphosa’s ability to deliver reforms will be his announcement of new cabinet, which is expected to take place next week.
“The speech was an honest and brutal reflection of South Africa’s recent problems. But it was also optimistic,” said Daniel Silke, director of the Political Futures Consultancy. “He will be judged on a very high bar and the next step is the cabinet. If it contains any semblance of the dead wood from the past he will be severely critiqued.”