South African Parliament Names Ramaphosa President

15 February, 2018

South Africa's parliament has chosen Cyril Ramaphosa as the country's new president.

Ramaphosa was elected by the parliament without a vote in Cape Town, the legislative capital. South Africa's chief justice told lawmakers that Ramaphosa was the only candidate nominated.

After the announcement, lawmakers of the ruling African National Congress began to sing and dance in celebration.

However, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party walked out of parliament before a vote could take place. Party leader Julius Malema said his party does not want to legitimize Ramaphosa's election. He is calling for parliament to be dissolved and early elections to be held.

The unusual situation came hours after former president Jacob Zuma told the country on national television that he was stepping down.

Zuma's nine years in office had been marked by many accusations of corruption. Zuma had wanted to delay his resignation until June. However, ANC members said they would hold a no-confidence vote in parliament Thursday if he did not resign immediately.

Who is Cryil Ramaphosa?

Ramaphosa served as deputy president under Zuma. He was expected to succeed him after being elected president of the ANC in December.

The new president has been active in the ANC since he became a student activist while studying law in the 1970s.

For his activities, he was arrested in 1974 and jailed for nearly a year in solitary confinement. Then, he became involved in trade unions as a legal way to protest the racially separated government at the time.

Later, he formed the National Union of Mineworkers in 1982 which grew to have 300,000 members. A strike in 1987 showed the movement's power to white leaders as international calls for racial equality in the country increased.

Nelson Mandela, center, and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, far right, appear together in Zimbabwe in March 5, 1990, Harare, Zimbabwe. (AP Photo)Nelson Mandela, center, and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, far right, appear together in Zimbabwe in March 5, 1990, Harare, Zimbabwe. (AP Photo)

South Africa was ruled under a system of racial separation known as apartheid. But that system began to come apart as activists, led by Nelson Mandela, pushed for equality.

Ramaphosa became part of a group tasked with moving South Africa to democracy in 1990 after Mandela was released from 27 years in prison.

Former president Mandela identified Ramaphosa as a leader in a "new generation" of activists. He also led the group that wrote the country's new constitution.

When Ramaphosa failed to succeed Mandela as president in 1999, he turned to business where he became one of Africa's richest men.

In his business career, he held stakes in McDonald's and Coca-Cola local businesses. He made millions of dollars in deals that required investors to partner with non-white shareholders in South Africa.

However, a miners' strike that turned violent in 2012 hurt his popularity. Police killed 34 miners at the Marikana platinum mine. Ramaphosa had been a director of the company at the time.

In recent years, Ramaphosa re-entered politics and became deputy president in 2014. However, as deputy to Zuma, he had been criticized for not speaking out against the president.

Ramaphosa has promised to rebuild the country's economy, increase growth and create jobs.

South Africa is considered one of the BRICS nations: an association of five major developing economies that include Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The country hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup with hopes that the international sports event would bring tourism, trade and expansion.

But, the nation of more than 50 million people has struggled with weak economic growth and high unemployment of over 25 percent for years.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Richard Green reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional information from AFP. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

legitimize –v. to make acceptable, to give acceptance or legality to

solitary confinement –n. being held without contact with others in prison

no-confidence vote –n. a vote in a legislative body that shows approval or disapproval of a leader

career –n. the path of someone's work life

stake –n. a share or interest in ownership

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