Ramaphosa elected as South Africa's new president

By Susan McFarland  |  Feb. 15, 2018 at 8:05 AM
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Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as South Africa's new president Thursday after the departure of embattled leader Jacob Zuma.

The announcement of Ramaphosa, the only candidate nominated in South African Parliament Thursday, was met with singing in the National Assembly.

In December, Ramaphosa was elected leader of the African National Congress. Zuma resigned Wednesday following pressure from the ANC, which said if Zuma didn't resign by the end of the day, proceedings would begin to force him out.

Ramaphosa, 65, drew international acclaim for steering talks that ended apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation, and produced South Africa's first democratic constitution. He has served as country's deputy president since 2014.

The new leader, one of South Africa's richest businessmen, was also chairman of the committee that prepared former President Nelson Mandela for release from prison in 1990.

As deputy president, Ramaphosa will assume the role of acting president when Zuma steps down. He said his priority is to revive the country's economy, which will be a tough task with South African unemployment at about 30 percent, and nearly 40 percent for young people.

Addressing government corruption is a step that could improve investor confidence and spark more jobs.

Zuma, South Africa's president since 2009, faces nearly 800 corruption allegations stemming from an arms deal from the 1990s. In 2016, he was ordered by South Africa's top court to repay part of $15 million in public funds it said he misappropriated to upgrade his private home.

On Wednesday, eight members of the powerful and wealthy Gupta family were arrested and accused of fraud and money laundering. The Guptas have been accused of using their friendship with Zuma to gain political influence.

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