South Africa's parliament has elected African National Congress deputy
president Kgalema Motlanthe as the third post-apartheid president of
the country. VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our Johannesburg
bureau, the new president made it clear he did not intend to deviate
from the former president's policies.
Despite the ANC ousting
former President Thabo Mbeki because, in the words of a senior party
official, "We have lost confidence in him", Mr. Motlanthe served
notice on the country he intended to continue in the footsteps of his
"The policies of this government are clear," he
said. "Mine is not the desire to deviate from what is working. It is
not for me to reinvent policy. Nor do I intend to reshape either
Cabinet or the public service. We will not allow that the work of
government be interrupted."
Earlier in the day Chief Justice
Pius Langa presided over the election of the new president, who got 269
votes, 28 less than the number of ANC members of parliament. Justice
Langa's announcement of the winner was brief.
"I accordingly declare the honorable Kgalema Petros Motlanthe duly elected president of the Republic of South Africa," he said.
Mr. Motlanthe took the oath of office at his official residence,
"I, Kgalema Petros Motlanthe, swear that I will be faithful
to the Republic of South Africa, and will obey, observe, uphold and
maintain the constitution, and all other law[s] of the Republic, and I
solemnly and sincerely promise that I will always promote all that will
advance the Republic, and oppose all that may harm it," he said.
Motlanthe is a somewhat opaque figure to South Africans. A poll was
published early in the day in which respondents were asked to indicate
if they supported his pending election as president, and what they knew
about him. Overall he received a score of just more than four out of 10.
Ironically even ANC supporters scored him less than five with most
saying they did not know enough to have an opinion.
It was just
Thursday that South Africans learned for the first time that Mr.
Motlanthe was born on July 19, 1949 in Alexandra township, now a
suburb of Johannesburg. It is believed that he is married with three
children. A resume released by the ANC did not mention his educational
In 1976 he was detained without trial for 10
months and the following year sentenced to 10 years in jail for offenses
against the apartheid state.
On his release in 1987, Mr.
Motlanthe joined the labor movement and in 1997 was elected secretary
general of the ANC, a post he held until he was elected deputy
president of the party in December last year.
addressed the house, President Motlanthe had to listen to a string of
opposition party members who, while welcoming his appointment, warned
him it is now time to put the country ahead of his divided party. The
feisty Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille told Mr.
Motlanthe his duty is clear.
"During times like these when there
is political and economic upheaval, we urgently need leadership that
will give all South Africans hope that the enormous challenges we face
like corruption, crime, poverty, unemployment and HIV/AIDS will be
addressed," said de Lille.
The new president wasted no time in
appointing a new cabinet. He replaced ministers who resigned but made
only minor changes in the remaining departments.
The speaker of parliament, Baleka Mbete, will be the new deputy president. Motlanthe has moved the controversial and unpopular Manto Tshabalala-Msimang from health and appointed her minister in the presidency. The new health minister is the widely respected Barbara Hogan.