Cape Town – South African lawmakers on Wednesday re-elected Cyril Ramaphosa as the nation’s president, two weeks after the ruling ANC party returned to power in legislative elections.
Ramaphosa was “duly elected president of the Republic of South Africa,” chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng told parliament. Ramaphosa was the only name nominated by lawmakers in Cape Town.
MPs from the African National Congress, which won 230 out of 400 seats on May 8, choose the head of state in the parliament’s first post-election sitting.
The ANC won the ballot with 57.5 percent of the vote, its thinnest majority since the end of apartheid.
Ramaphosa will be sworn in on Saturday and is expected to name a deputy president and cabinet at the weekend.
Under South Africa’s 1996 constitution, electors vote for a party, and the party selects individuals who go to the National Assembly, which then chooses the head of state.
Ramaphosa, 66, is a trade unionist who played a prominent part in the struggle against white minority rule before becoming a successful businessman after the end of apartheid.
He will serve his first full five-year term since taking over last year from Jacob Zuma who was forced out over a series of corruption scandals.
“We have been given a responsibility to revive our economy, to rebuild our institutions and to restore hope,” Ramaphosa told parliament. “This adminstration is about change and you are going to see the change.”
His first test as he starts his new term will be his choice of a cabinet — a task beset by rival factions within the ANC.
– Shadow of scandals –
Prospects of a major reshuffle were heightened when Deputy President David Mabuza announced he would defer taking his oath as a lawmaker.
An ANC integrity commission report has alleged Mabuza — the party’s No. 2 — “prejudiced the integrity of the ANC and brought the organisation into disrepute”.
Seen as a pro-Zuma figure, his name has repeatedly come up in media reports into corruption and political killings when he was premier of the eastern Mpumalanga province.
He later became the ANC’s vice president in December 2017 when Ramaphosa was elected party leader.
“Ramaphosa will never be more powerful than he is right now,” political analyst Richard Calland told AFP.
“He has to impose his authority. He can’t dispense all of the Zuma faction… but he has to take them out of key positions so that he can govern decisively.”
Another senior ANC official, outgoing environment minister Nomvula Mokonyane, who has been named in the ongoing judicial inquiry into state corruption, also pulled out of the swearing-in and will not be an MP.
Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, called on Ramaphosa to act decisively against corruption in the ANC, saying he must ensure “those who have looted from our country actually see jail.”
The radical left Economic Freedom Fighters, founded six years ago by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, grew from 25 to 44 parliamentary seats in the election.
“We hope that you will be a president of a corrupt-free government and you will not subject yourself to views of factionalism,” Malema told Ramaphosa.
The ANC’s reputation was badly sullied under Zuma’s 2009-2018 rule.
Its support has fallen in every election as it has been confronted by deepening public anger over its failure to tackle poverty and inequality in the post-apartheid era.
South Africa economy grew just 0.8 percent in 2018 and unemployment hovers around 27 percent — soaring to over 50 percent among young people.