Sunday, May 10, 2009



May 9 2009

Buoyed by his party’s landslide victory in last month’s elections, new South African president Jacob Zuma describes his election as a moment of renewal and vows to walk in the footsteps of Mandela

New South African president Jacob Zuma described his election as a “moment of renewal” for South Africa, and vowed to work for reconciliation, continuing in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela.

Zuma, 67, was sworn in yesterday in front of 5,000 invited guests and thousands of supporters who had gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to see him take the oath of office.

Zuma also swore to “protect and promote the rights of all South Africans” as well as let the truth dictate his conscience.

“I will devote myself to the well-being of the republic and all of its people. So help me God,” he said to loud applause.

He said that when Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, a new nation was born, founded on the principles of human dignity, which he promised to uphold.

“We gather here determined to renew that most solemn undertaking to build a society in which all people are free from the shackles of discrimination, exploitation and disease. We gather here determined that the struggle and sacrifices of our people shall not be in vain, instead they shall inspire to complete the task for which so much blood was spilt.”

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were among nearly 30 heads of state and government attending.

Earlier, former president Thabo Mbeki and his former deputy, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, were booed by the crwod, who were swaying to the tune of struggle songs, as their arrivals were announced.Mbeki arrived with his wife, Zanele, shortly after Mandela.

Thousands of supporters watched the ceremony on TV screens from lawns below the Union Buildings, the president’s office.
People began gathering in the capital before dawn, some singing songs in praise of their new president.

The mood was festive in Pretoria when foreign heads of state began arriving.

ANC supporters, dressed in Zuma T-shirts, dresses and hats, danced in circles and shouted hymns outside the Union Buildings, the official seat of South Africa’s government.

“I am extremely happy. Zuma will give us houses, fight corruption and crime. We got here, we voted for him and we expect him to fight for South Africa,” said supporter Mirriam Segabutla

“Zuma has to change a lot of things because we voted for him. He can’t afford to disappoint us,” said Barbara Nkadimeng.

Zuma takes over Africa’s biggest economy with a big mandate after his ruling ANC’s landslide victory in the April 22 poll.

Zuma has promised to tackle widespread crime and poverty but is expected at first to focus on guiding the country through what could already be its first recession in 17 years.

Former South African leader Nelson Mandela, 90, looking frail, was transported in a golf cart and then helped on to the stage just before Zuma was expected to be sworn in. He arrived to thousands of cheering supporters.

At the top of Zuma’s agenda will be navigating Africa’s biggest economy through what could already be its first recession in 17 years.

The charismatic politician won a wide mandate to lead with a ruling African National Congress landslide victory in the April 22 election.

South Africans respect the ANC for its long anti-apartheid struggle but they are growing impatient with a number of problems which Zuma has promised to tackle.

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Jacob Zuma sworn in as South African president
One of his big challenges will be juggling the interests of investors and union and communist allies who want more government spending on the millions still living in abject poverty 15 years after the end of apartheid.

Investors are eager to see who forms his economic team and are especially interested in the fate of respected Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, praised for his fiscal management.

They fear Zuma’s union and communist allies, who helped him rise to the top, will demand payback in the form of more government spending on the poor.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, Manuel expressed confidence in Zuma’s abilities.

“Frequently people look for experience. But what matters is attitude and aptitude,” he said.

“The mood is very buoyed. Feeling very strong. There’s a big wave to ride,” he added.

Rape trial

Stacking the government, to be named tomorrow, with loyalists could hurt the credibility of Zuma, who has said ANC officials should not expect positions just because of their loyalty.

Mike Davies, Middle East & Africa analyst at political risk at consulting firm Eurasia Group, predicts Zuma will be pragmatic.

“Leftists are unlikely to be given portfolios of key concern to investors,” said Davies.

The new president’s political career has been fraught with crises.

Zuma battled graft charges for eight years before they were dropped just before the election on a technicality. He was acquitted in a rape trial in 2006 but his image still suffers.

He has said he will consult widely before making major policy decisions, an approach that may ease opposition fears the new administration will stifle dissent.

He wants to be seen as moderate, especially at a time of economic uncertainty.

But Zuma may have to accommodate allies like firebrand ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, who said ahead of the inauguration the ANC was indebted to the working class.

He has three wives and 19 children and is known for his mediation skills.