CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South African lawmakers elected Cyril Ramaphosa president on Wednesday, and he promised to create jobs and work for the interests of all citizens, not just members of the majority African National Congress (ANC).
The ANC won South Africa’s May 8 general election, enabling the party to pick the country’s president, but its share of the vote fell to a post-apartheid low — reflecting anger at corruption and cronyism under Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma.
Many voters were also dismayed at the racial inequality that remains entrenched a generation since the former liberation movement took power.
“Only one candidate has been nominated. I accordingly declare the honourable Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa duly elected president of the Republic of South Africa,” Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said.
Ramaphosa, who is also the leader of the ANC, was elected without contest and will be officially inaugurated on Saturday.
The election of the former trades union boss turned businessman was greeted by clapping from a packed public gallery and opposition benches, including the far-left Economic Freedom Front, which had a fractious relationship with Zuma.
“I will be a president for all South Africans and not just a president for the African National Congress,” Ramaphosa said. “We have been given this responsibility on an overriding basis to revive our economy, to create jobs.”
Since replacing Zuma, Ramaphosa has pledged to reform struggling state-owned companies and revive a sclerotic economy. But opposition by party rivals has frustrated efforts to enact several reforms.
If he manages next week to trim a cabinet comprising more than 30 ministers and deputies, as he wants to do, that would be an early sign his mandate has put him in a stronger position to overhaul South African politics.
South Africa’s economy grew an estimated 0.8% in 2018 after recovering from recession. Growth is forecast at 1.5% this year, but hitting that target could depend on how successfully the government manages the restructuring of debt-laden power utility Eskom.
Ramaphosa’s influential deputy David Mabuza unexpectedly postponed taking up his seat to address accusations he had brought the ruling party into disrepute, owing to graft allegations. Mabuza denies any wrongdoing.
A former premier the coal-producing northeastern province of Mpumalanga, Mabuza played a pivotal role in ensuring Ramaphosa’s election as ANC leader in a tight contest in Feb. 2018.
His failure to take up his seat for now recalled the scandals that have damaged the ANC’s popularity and which brought down Zuma. He was removed Zuma from power last year by the party and faces prosecution for graft, though he denies any wrongdoing.
Analysts said development reflected Ramaphosa’s strengthened authority to tackle reforms.
In an ANC statement Ramaphosa said: “The deputy president has indicated he would like to have an opportunity to address... these allegations.”
“The ANC ... should advance the electoral mandate in an environment of public trust,” it added.
Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Writing by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Tim Cocks