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Zuma Sworn In as South Africa's President

  • Delia Robertson

Jacob Zuma, the controversial leader of the African National Congress, has been sworn in as the fourth post-apartheid president of South Africa.

Jacob Zuma was sworn in twenty minutes later than scheduled at 11:20 AM local time, by Chief Justice Pius Langa, promising to faithfully execute the duties of high office and uphold the law.

"I Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma swear that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa, and will obey, observe and uphold and maintain the constitution and all other law of the republic," he said.

Mr. Zuma was then proclaimed president by Justice Langa to the approval of his official praise singer and the applause of the five thousand invited guests.

Thousands of South Africans watched the inauguration from the lawns of Union Buildings in Pretoria. Among the invited guests were former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, two kings, twenty seven other heads of state and government.

Mr. Zuma comes from a humble background, the son of a domestic worker who did not have the benefit of a formal education.

His road to the high office has been marked by controversy, notably a string of corruption, fraud and racketeering charges dropped on technical grounds two weeks before his election.

Mr. Zuma was fired in 2005 by then President Mbeki following the conviction of his financial advisor on corruption charges in which Mr. Zuma was implicated by the court. He subsequently fought a dogged battle to win control of the ANC and ultimately the country.

As expected, Mr. Zuma linked his presidency to that of Mr. Mandela. He reached back to Mr. Mandela's inaugural address to renew Mr Mandela's promise to build a society free of discrimination, exploitation, want and disease.

"We gather here determined that the struggles and sacrifices of our people over many decades shall not be in vain. Instead, they shall inspire us to complete the task for which so much blood was shed, and so much hardship endured. This is a moment of renewal," he said.

Further casting his leadership in the mold of Mr Mandela, Mr. Zuma stressed the importance of reconciling South Africans and reached out to the man he knows as Zizi - his one-time close friend who is now widely seen as his adversary - former President Thabo Mbeki.

"He made a remarkable contribution towards strengthening our democracy, and laid a firm foundation for economic growth and development. He made our country an integral part of the continent and worked tirelessly for an African rebirth. Through his leadership, South Africa's stature grew in the continent and globally," he said.

Mr. Zuma promised he and his government will work unremittingly to address all the issues of greatest concerns to South Africans.

"For as long as there are South Africans who die from preventable disease; workers who struggle to feed their families; communities without clean water, decent shelter or proper sanitation; rural dwellers unable to make a decent living from the land on which they live; women who are subjected to discrimination, exploitation or abuse; children who do not have the means nor the opportunity to receive a decent education; people who are unable to find work, we shall not rest, and we dare not falter," he said.

Like his campaign speeches these promises are likely to contribute to already very high expectations among South Africans, particularly the 40 percent of the population who survive on less than $2 a day.

Mr. Zuma, and the members of his Cabinet whom he will name on Sunday, will very quickly have to tell South Africans how they plan to meet those promises; and how they, in the current global economic climate, intend to pay for them.
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