15 February saw the South African Parliament’s voting in of Cyril Ramaphosa as the country’s new President. This, after Jacob Zuma scheduled a press conference late on Wednesday to announce his resignation, stating that while he disagrees with the ANC’s decision to force him out, he will not defy the party he has been a member of for so many years.
Opposition parties wished their new leader well, but cautioned that Ramaphosa has a tough job ahead of him, in reunifying the nation, and rectifying the numerous problems they believe were brought about during Zuma’s tenure.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng presided over the vote. Ramaphosa was the only MP nominated.
South Africa’s new President is no stranger to political leadership positions. Aside from being the country’s Deputy President since 2014, Ramaphosa was the Deputy President of the ANC from 2012 to 2017; and its Secretary General from 1991 to 1997. He also acted as his party’s Chief Negotiator during South Africa’s transition to democracy. Despite being former President Nelson Mandela’s choice for his successor, the ANC put forward Thabo Mbeki instead.
Outside of politics, Ramaphosa has many other bold achievements, including building up the most powerful trade union in South Africa; the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The President has also built a name for himself in the business world. Having held notable ownership in companies such as McDonald’s South Africa; and being chair of the board for cellular operator MTN, and member of the board for mining company Lonmin, Ramaphosa has amassed a net worth of over $450 million.
The President’s wife, and the new First Lady of South Africa, Tshepo Motsepe, is a medical doctor, having worked over the years in both public and private practice. She has served as Non-executive director of the Wits Health Consortium, and as a board member of both the Vaal Reefs Disaster Trust and the Kids Haven Foundation. She is currently the chairperson of the African Self Help Trust, which focuses on Early Childhood Development and Education.
Tshepo is the sister of South African businessman Patrice Motsepe, one of the wealthiest Africans, who is the founder and executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, which has interests in gold, ferrous metals, base metals, and platinum. The First Lady is also the sister of mining businesswoman Bridgette Radebe, who is married to Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe.
The rand has strengthened since Ramaphosa’s taking the helms, and a strengthened economy and renewed foreign investment in South Africa are expected in the coming months.
The first major test for the new President will be in seeing who he retains and who he replaces in his new cabinet. He is facing increasing pressure from both opposition parties and his own party to fire certain ministers who are seen as incompetent, as soon as possible. These include Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba, as well as Des Van Rooyan, Faith Muthambi, Bathabile Dlamini, David Mahlobo, and Mosebenzi Zwane. Also among those Ramaphosa is being pressured to replace is Director of the National Prosecuting Authority Shaun Abrahams, who is currently overseeing the process of deciding whether hundreds of corruption charges will be brought against Jacob Zuma.
President Ramaphosa is set to deliver his first State of the Nation (SONA) address tonight.
This will be followed by the SONA debate on Monday 19 February, and the 2018 Budget Speech on Wednesday 21 February.
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