JOHANNESBURG – The vice president of South Africa and new leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), Cyril Ramaphosa, closed on Wednesday the party’s 54th National Conference with a call for unity, and put issues such as improving the economy, corruption or land distribution among his priorities.
In his closing speech to the meeting, which began Saturday and lasted to Wednesday morning, the South African vice president thanked the party members for having overcome the speculations that the movement would collapse due to internal fractures it faced at this conference.
“We are still here, standing almost 106 years later, united,” said Ramaphosa, who on Monday beat his rival by a narrow margin in the race for the leadership of the party, the former president of the African Union Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who had President Jacob Zuma’s support.
However, Ramaphosa acknowledged that, after 23 years in power, since the arrival of democracy, the old liberation movement is going through a “critical moment” if it wants to continue representing “aspirations, hopes” and “concerns” of the majority of South Africans.
“They want an ANC that uses public office not to serve vested interests, but to build a truly developmental state and a vibrant, inclusive economy that creates jobs and improves lives,” he said.
“This conference has resolved that corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality,” he added.
His words were aimed at giving a new direction to the ANC, whose image has been damaged by the multiple corruption scandals in which President Zuma was directly involved.
Other issues highlighted by the new leader of the ANC were the fight against gender inequality and AIDS as well as the restoration of relations with its historic allies, the trade unions and the South African Communist Party (SACP).
On Monday, the ANC chose Ramaphosa, 65, as the new leader in a divided internal election, in which he obtained 2,440 votes against the 2,261 that his opponent Dlamini-Zuma received.
The ANC has won every general election since the arrival of democracy in 1994 with more than 60 percent of the votes, a trend that could lead to Ramaphosa becoming the next president of South Africa when Zuma finishes his mandate in 2019.