JOHANNESBURG – Cyril Ramaphosa will continue his role as South Africa’s president after he got the backing of the country’s parliament Wednesday thanks to the absolute majority secured by his African National Congress party in recent elections.
The newly-sworn-in members of the Cape Town-based National Assembly named the 66-year-old former union leader and business magnate without casting a vote given none of the other parties presented a candidate against him.
In his first speech as a newly-elected leader, Ramaphosa said he was “humbled” to take the role.
“I will seek to act and be the president of all South Africans and not just the president of those who voted for the party that I lead,” he said.
He thanked South Africans for going out to vote and for doing so peacefully.
“This house is a reflection of the will of the people,” he said.
“We carry a common mandate to build a nation our people yearn for where all will be free, free from poverty, free from hunger and also free from unemployment, but where they will also feel they are secure and equal.”
He said his administration would be about “change” and highlighted his willingness to cooperate with political parties in the chamber.
Ramaphosa came to power in February 2018 when his ANC predecessor Jacob Zuma caved to party pressure amid a corruption scandal.
The ANC, the party of late leader Nelson Mandela, has been in power since the end of apartheid in South Africa.
It won its sixth consecutive election with 57 percent of the vote (230 out of 400 seats) in the May 8 elections, which is the lowest-ever vote share for the ANC.
In a surprise turn of events, South African vice president, David Mabuza, announced earlier that he would not swear in on Wednesday.
“The deputy president made the request in light of a report by the ANC Integrity Commission in which he is alleged to have prejudiced the integrity of the ANC and brought the organization into disrepute,” the ANC said in a statement.
Mabuza “has indicated he would like to have an opportunity to address Integrity Commission on these allegations,” the statement added.
This move triggered speculation that Mabuza will not continue as vice president when Ramaphosa announces his new cabinet in the upcoming days.
The ANC’s main challenger, the Democratic Alliance, holds 84 seats in the National Assembly, followed by the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters, with 44 seats.
On May 5, Ramaphosa vowed to punish government officials found guilty of corruption, acknowledging his party had made mistakes and that corruption had caused severe damage.