JOHANNESBURG. – South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, was expected to give more details about how he plans to tackle corruption and boost economic growth yesterday evening in his first state of the nation address. Ramaphosa was sworn in as head of state on Thursday after his scandal-plagued predecessor, Jacob Zuma, reluctantly resigned on orders of the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
His election as president, which was unopposed in the parliament, has prompted a wave of optimism among South Africans hungry for change after nine years of economic stagnation and corruption scandals under Zuma. Zuma denies all wrongdoing.
“It’s all systems go. We are expecting our political programme to be delivered by the new president,” parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete told state broadcaster SABC from Cape Town, where the state of the nation was addressed.
President Ramaphosa, who will see out the remainder of Zuma’s presidential term until elections next year, faces an uphill battle to win public and investor support.
Africa’s most developed economy needs faster economic growth if it is to reduce high unemployment – currently at 27 percent – and alleviate widespread poverty that has persisted since the end of white minority rule in 1994.
The economy slipped into recession last year for the first time since 2009 and has also declined in indices that measure corruption and the ease of doing business.
Financial markets have rallied since President Ramaphosa took over from former President Zuma as ANC leader in December, as investors warmed to his pledges to straighten out the country’s struggling state-owned enterprises and woo overseas investment.
South Africa’s rand extended recent gains early yesterday.
President Ramaphosa, a former union leader who played an important role in talks to end apartheid, was expected to announce major cabinet changes in the coming days to replace Zuma acolytes in key portfolios, who have been accused of mismanagement and implicated in corruption.
Ordinary South Africans are hopeful that he will deliver on promises to create more jobs.
Meanwhile, trade union federation Cosatu has called on Cyril Ramaphosa to cut SA’s “bloated” cabinet in half.
In a pre-State of the Nation Address statement, Cosatu said that “captured ministers” should be fired immediately, and “bling lifestyles” of the political elite stopped.
It did not specifically name any ministers.
Cosatu also called on President Ramaphosa to clean up state-owned enterprises.
“South Africa needs a clear plan to clean up Eskom, SAA, SABC, Denel and SASSA.
“This must include comprehensive forensic audits and the arrest, prosecution and the seizure of assets of all those implicated in corruption,” said Cosatu.
“An improvement of governance and management systems in the SOEs that will help put them on a sustainable financial footing. This must definitely not include privatisation.”
President Ramaphosa, after he was sworn in on Thursday afternoon, said in a brief remark that he would be focusing on how to improve state-owned enterprises, deal with state capture and fight corruption. – Reuters-Fin24.