JOHANNESBURG – Cyril Ramaphosa became on Thursday the new president of South Africa after former leader Jacob Zuma obeyed demands from the ruling African National Congress and stepped down.
Since no other candidate disputed the selection, Ramaphosa, the vice president and leader of the ANC until Wednesday, was automatically declared the new head of state, without the need of a vote.
As dictated by the Constitution, the head of the Constitutional Court, Mogoeng Mogoeng, was in charge of the new presidential inauguration.
Ramaphosa was nominated to be president by his ANC party, which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid and has the majority of seats in parliament.
The former trade unionist and anti-apartheid activist is now president at age 65, the fifth president in South Africa’s democratic history.
Ramaphosa said he was thankful for the opportunity to lead, and promised that under his leadership, the interests of South Africa and its people will be the main concern.
He also promised to tackle corruption, improve the economy and seek unity in the country, although he explained that the details of his government policies will be presented Friday, when he is set to deliver a speech on the state of the nation before parliament.
The parliamentary session, however, was not without discrepancies as the main opposition groups criticized the process.
Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said that the opposition’s problem is not with Jacob Zuma, but the ANC. Maimane called for new elections and challenged Ramaphosa’s right to lead.
Ramaphosa’s coming to power officially ends the Zuma era in South Africa, a period marked by corruption scandals.