South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed a "new dawn" for the country Friday and promised to fight corruption following the resignation of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, who was plagued by corruption scandals.
In his first State of the Nation address to parliament, Ramaphosa struck a note of optimism and outlined a vision to revive the country's economy.
“We should put all the negativity that has dogged our country behind us because a new dawn is upon us and a wonderful dawn has arrived,” Ramaphosa said.
He was sworn into office on Thursday, a day after Zuma was forced to resign after his ruling African National Congress finally turned against his turbulent presidency.
'Very unfair' treatment
Zuma resigned reluctantly after his party threatened to oust him via a no-confidence vote in parliament. He complained that he had received “very unfair” treatment from the party.
Ramaphosa pledged “certainty and consistency” in his policy positions, a contrast to Zuma, who was frequently criticized for unpredictable changes in policy and cabinet members.
“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.”
He also said that “tough decisions have to be made to close our fiscal gap, stabilize our debt and restore our state-owned enterprises to health,” and that he would especially focus on the country’s high youth unemployment.
Rise in value of rand
The South African currency, the rand, has strengthened against the dollar since Ramaphosa was sworn in. The country faces many economic challenges, including unemployment of over 25 percent and slow growth.
The liberal Democratic Alliance applauded Ramaphosa’s business-friendly policies, but criticized the speech as the same old message his party has been offering for decades.
“We could have gotten more bolder action today, but I heard more of the same stuff,” said Mmusi Maimane, head of the Democratic Alliance.
Ramaphosa, 65, was a lead negotiator in the transition from apartheid to democracy and then became a multimillionaire businessman before returning to politics.