Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected South Africa’s new president in an uncontested vote in parliament following the resignation of Jacob Zuma. Mr Ramaphosa will now need to focus on the hard job of reinvigorating a moribund economy and bringing back investor confidence.
“No life should be lost in my name. The [African National Congress party] should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect,” Mr Zuma said in a televised address, following days of closed-door negotiations with top members of his party to secure his departure.
In power since 2009, Mr Zuma’s has presided over a marked decline in South Africa’s economy. His departure was widely welcomed in global markets and the rand strengthened to its highest level since 2015 on the announcement.
South Africa’s economic growth slowed to an estimated 0.7% in 2017 and it has been sliding down the World Bank's Doing Business rankings in recent years.
Growth is expected to accelerate to 1.1% in 2018, far below the required 3% to 4% that is estimated to keep pace with population growth and make a dent in record unemployment levels of 28%.
Mr Ramaphosa has vowed to root out “state capture” – a local term for graft and corruption – and bring investment back to South Africa. Greenfield FDI capital flows into South Africa have fallen by two-thirds since their peak in 2011, according to investment monitor fDi Markets.
South Africa’s sovereign rating was cut to junk status by two out of three of the big ratings agencies in 2017 following Mr Zuma’s decision to fire a respected finance minister. Its credit rating is up for review in March. Economists expect it to hold steady, according to a Reuters poll of economists published in mid-February.
“The key point from a credit perspective will be the new leadership’s response to the country’s economic and fiscal challenges and progress in implementing reforms addressing them,” said Zuzana Brixiova, a vice-president at ratings agency Moody’s.
Mr Zuma’s days in office were widely considered to be numbered when Mr Ramaphosa won the African National Congress party leadership contest in mid-December, defeating Mr Zuma’s handpicked successor.
The former president is also mired in allegations of corruption. Mr Ramaphosa promised to tackle the country's corruption epidemic in a speech to parliament immediately following his election. "I will try very hard not to disappoint the people of South Africa,” he said.