Cyril Ramaphosa sworn in as president in South Africa

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Less than 6 hours after the resignation of his rival Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected president of South Africa by a parliamentary vote.

 

Ramaphosa – who, as deputy president, became interim leader immediately after Zuma’s late-night resignation on Wednesday – is being sworn in as head of state by South Africa’s chief justice in Cape Town.

The ruling African National Congress has a substantial majority in parliament and the vote is effectively a formality. Though deeply divided, the ANC has already closed ranks after the crisis of recent days and has rallied around Ramaphosa, 65, who was pictured jogging and posing with local residents on the Cape Town seafront early on Thursday morning.

 

Ramaphosa is the standard bearer for the moderate, a former anti-apartheid activist turned successful businessman, reformist faction of the ANC. Zuma, 75, represented the party’s more populist, nationalist elements, commentators say.

Zuma’s resignation put an end to an intense political crisis that threatened to inflict significant damage on the ANC, which has ruled South Africa since the country’s first free elections in 1994.

In a televised address to the nation late on Wednesday, Zuma said he was a disciplined member of the party, to which he had dedicated his life.

Late in the afternoon, Zuma gave an angry and rambling TV interview that sought to justify his refusal to obey his party’s order to step down.

But his late-night speech was more confident and warm. Zuma started with a joke about the late hour and his trademark chuckle. He expressed his gratitude to the ANC and South Africans for the privilege of serving them at the “pinnacle” of public life, before saying “thank you” and “goodbye” in three local languages.

Zuma, a former anti-apartheid activist who has led the ANC since 2007 and been South Africa’s president since 2009, was due to leave power next year. His tenure has been marred by economic decline and multiple charges of graft, undermining the image and legitimacy of the party that led the struggle against apartheid.

The crisis of recent days has further damaged the ANC, as well as angering many South Africans who are becoming increasingly impatient with the party’s opaque internal procedures.

In December, Ramaphosa won a bitterly fought ANC leadership election. Party strategists wanted Zuma to be sidelined as quickly as possible, to allow the ANC to regroup before campaigning starts for elections in 2019.