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South African lawmakers elect Ramaphosa as state president

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa

Cape Town, May 22, 2019 (Reuters/NAN)

South African lawmakers on Wednesday elected Cyril Ramaphosa as state president in the first sitting of parliament since the ruling African National Congress (ANC) won a majority of parliamentary seats in an election earlier this month.

Ramaphosa, who is also the leader of the ANC, was elected unopposed by lawmakers in parliament’s National Assembly lower house ahead of his inauguration on Saturday.

The ANC easily won South Africa’s May 8 general election but its share of the vote fell, reflecting anger at corruption scandals and racial inequalities that remain entrenched a generation after the party took power.

Also, South Africa began swearing-in its newly elected parliament on Wednesday, excluding President Cyril Ramaphosa’s influential deputy David Mabuza, who put off taking up his seat to address accusations that he had brought the ruling party into disrepute.

South Africa’s chief justice started swearing in lawmakers in batches of 10 ahead of the election of parliament’s presiding officers and nominations for president.

Mabuza’s exclusion is a reminder of the scandals that have damaged the ANC’s popularity and brought down Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma, who was removed from power by the party in 2018 and now faces prosecution for graft.

Mabuza, the former premier of Mpumalanga, a coal-producing Northeastern province, has struggled to shrug off longstanding allegations of corruption there.

A report by the ANC’s Integrity Commission suggested he had brought the party into disrepute.

“The deputy president has indicated he would like to have an opportunity to address… these allegations,” said Ramaphosa in an ANC statement.

“The deputy president believes that the ANC as a governing party should advance the electoral mandate in an environment of public trust.”

Mabuza played a key role in ensuring Ramaphosa was elected in a tight contest to take over from Zuma as party leader, which led to Ramaphosa replacing Zuma as president in Feb. 2018.

Another senior ANC politician, Nomvula Mokonyane, a former environmental affairs minister, also postponed her swearing in, with ANC officials citing a family bereavement.

Mokonyane had been nominated for a senior parliamentary position that entails holding the executive to account, but the ANC said it would now find someone else for the post.

Since replacing Zuma, Ramaphosa has pledged to fight corruption, reform struggling state-owned companies and revive a sclerotic economy.

But he has struggled to enact reforms in the face of opposition from party rivals.

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