CAPE TOWN, South Africa – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gave his first state of the nation address Friday, saying it’s time for South Africans to put discord behind them and that the country will “turn the tide” on corruption in state institutions this year.
Ramaphosa delivered a message of optimism and renewal after a dramatic week in which he was elected by ruling party lawmakers following the resignation of predecessor Jacob Zuma, whose tenure was marked by corruption scandals.
“We should put all the negativity that has dogged our country behind us because a new dawn is upon us,” Ramaphosa said in a speech in parliament that drew enthusiastic applause.
Ramaphosa, who had been deputy president under Zuma, said his administration would concentrate on creating jobs and attracting investment, and that it is time to restore trust and confidence in South Africa’s public institutions and leaders.
“This is the year in which we will turn the tide on corruption in our public institutions,” Ramaphosa said. “The criminal justice institutions have been taking initiatives that will enable us to deal effectively with corruption.”
The South African currency, the rand, has strengthened against the dollar since Ramaphosa’s ascent, but the new president faces the long-term problem of sluggish economic growth and unemployment of over 25 percent.
Zuma resigned Wednesday, opening the way for Ramaphosa to become South Africa’s fifth president since the end of white minority rule in 1994.
Ramaphosa was a lead negotiator in the transition from apartheid to democracy who became one of South Africa’s most prominent businessmen. He now leads a government anxious to shed months of political limbo and public frustration that weakened the reputation of the ruling African National Congress party.