South Africa has a new president after Zuma finally stands down

Jacob Zuma was pushed out over corruption allegations.
February 15, 2018, 11:00am

Cyril Ramaphosa was voted in as South Africa’s new president Thursday, less than 16 hours after his predecessor was finally pushed out over corruption allegations.

The 65-year-old was the only candidate nominated by his party, the African National Congress, as it elected him leader in the National Assembly in Cape Town. Lawmakers burst into song, singing “Rise up, Ramaphosa,” as the announcement was made, effectively bringing an end to the country’s weekslong political crisis.

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“South Africa has just emerged from a historic and challenging time,” said Baleka Mbete, the parliamentary speaker. “Our democracy has matured and remains resilient.”

As deputy president, Ramaphosa, a former anti-apartheid activist, trade union leader, and businessman, had already been named the interim president after his embattled predecessor Jacob Zuma abruptly announced his resignation Wednesday night.

Having repeatedly resisted calls to stand down, Zuma said in a televised address that while he did not agree with the party’s decision, he would reluctantly step aside. Zuma had been given an ultimatum by his party late Monday, personally delivered by Ramaphosa, to step down or face a vote of no confidence.

“I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment,” said Zuma. “I will continue to serve the people of South Africa and the ANC. I will dedicate my life to continuing to work for the execution of the policies of our organisation.

“No life should be lost in my name. The ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect.”

Zuma had been dogged by allegations of corruption, and faced increasing scrutiny for his close ties to the wealthy Indian-born Gupta family, who are accused of using their relationship with Zuma to influence government affairs. The Guptas’ Johannesburg home was targeted in a dawn raid by an elite anti-corruption unit Wednesday.

While Zuma was seen as representing the nationalist elements of the ANC, his successor as seen as a reformer and moderate, for whom reviving the country’s troubled economy, which stagnated during the nine years of Zuma’s rule, will be a top priority.

One opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, walked out of Parliament during the debate on electing Ramaphosa. The party said it wanted fresh elections, rather than simply allowing the ANC, which commands a substantial majority in the assembly, to simply anoint a new leader.

Cover: Acting President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa addresses Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, Thursday Feb. 15, 2018, prior to being sworn in later. Ramaphosa was elected unopposed as South Africa's new president by ruling party legislators after the resignation of Jacob Zuma. (Mike Hutchings / Pool via AP)