Acting president Cyril Ramaphosa looks set to become South Africa’s new president Thursday afternoon in an electoral formality, after scandal-hit Jacob Zuma resigned on Wednesday, more than a year before Zuma’s term formally ends in 2019.
The development comes after a breakdown in talks between Zuma and Ramaphosa—Zuma’s ertswhile deputy and recently elected president of the ruling Africa National Congress (ANC) party—for a transition in power.
The ANC, which has been in power since the end of the apartheid regime in 1994, has been keen for Ramaphosa to take over from Zuma in time to unify a badly divided party before the 2019 general elections. After a poor performance in the municipal elections of 2016, the ANC is worried about retaining the majority it has held since the end of apartheid in 1994.
Zuma’s nine years in power have been dogged by economic stagnation and allegations of corruption. He currently faces 783 counts of corruption relating to an arms deal in the late 90s, and more recently has been accused of allowing the Gupta business family to influence cabinet appointments and win state contracts.
Expectations are high that Ramaphosa to deliver his promise of economic growth and rooting out corruption in order to make a more equal South Africa. Here’s more on the man being called South Africa’s president-in-waiting:
Anti-apartheid figure turned multi-millionaire
Ramaphosa was an integral part of the anti-apartheid movement. He was an activist lawyer who grew up in Soweto, an impoverished township in Johannesburg, and his anti-apartheid activities saw him detained twice in the 1970s. He formed the influential National Union of Mineworkers in the 1980s and led some of the country’s biggest strikes, which shook the foundations of the apartheid-era economy. His work as lead negotiator with the outgoing white government of F.W. de Klerk helped end apartheid in 1994. He also helped craft the rainbow nation’s post-apartheid constitution, considered to be one of the most liberal in the world.
But his hopes of being anointed as a potential successor to Nelson Mandela was dashed when he lost out to Thabo Mbeki in the race to become South Africa’s deputy president under Mandela. A few years later, Ramaphosa withdrew from the centre-stage of politics and started a lucrative career in the private sector. His Shanduka Group acquired stakes in mining firms, a mobile operator and McDonald’s South African franchise.
His biographer Anthony Butler once wrote that Ramaphosa, who married Tshepo Motsepe, the sister of South Africa’s richest black businessman, Patrice Motsepe, enjoyed the finer things in life. Read more