Ramaphosa to become acting South Africa president after Zuma exit

The political wrangling of recent weeks plunged South Africa - the continent's most developed economy - into confusion over who was running the country, with last Thursday's annual State of the Nation address cancelled at the last-minute.

Mr Ramaphosa told parliament that corruption and state capture were "on our radar screen".

Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, former chairman of African biggest telecoms operator MTN Group, is expected to replace Zuma as president on Thursday.

"The big news is that Zuma has now resigned and that has created a lot of euphoria".

Ramaphosa, the only candidate, was approved without a vote by the parliament in Cape Town, chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng told assembled lawmakers, to loud cheers.

In the end, though, his party turned against him, asking him to step down a full year and a half before the end of his second term.

Africa's most developed economy needs faster economic growth if it is to reduce high unemployment - now at 27 percent - and alleviate widespread poverty that has persisted since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

The economy slipped into recession past year for the first time since 2009 and has also declined in indices that measure corruption and the ease of doing business.

Moreover, the economy remains largely under the control of whites who held power under apartheid.

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Another key issue facing the 65-year-old president is policy uncertainty in South Africa's mining industry, an important economic engine, which has been fighting in court with Zuma's mines minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, over an increase in black ownership targets. Because Zuma resigned office rather than being forced out by parliament, Ramaphosa inherits his cabinet but is free to make changes. We see it as an illegitimate move because parliament should cleanse itself of all the Constitutional Court rulings that have found it to be in violation of the constitution in that it failed to hold the executive accountable.

"Zuma built a deep system of corruption that has penetrated every part of the government and the criminal prosecution system", Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said.

As criticism of his reign mounted, Mr Zuma maintained a cheerful public facade, often chuckling when allegations against him were repeated.

"Defiant in defeat" and "Going, Going, Gone" were some of the newspaper headlines that captured Zuma's reluctance to leave.

"South Africa's long nightmare is over", read the headline of an analysis on online news site Daily Maverick.

"We have had to recall a cadre of the movement that has served this organisation for over 60 years, it's not a small matter".

"The fact that Mr. Zuma has been allowed to hold on to the highest position in the land despite long-standing and overwhelming evidence of his unfitness for office has done huge harm to our country's worldwide reputation, to its economy and, especially, to its poorest and most vulnerable citizens", said the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference.

The ANC ordered Zuma to step down after the party was weakened by multiple corruption allegations around him.

  • Megan Austin