Cyril Ramaphosa elected as president of South Africa after Zuma departure

  • Ramaphosa, 65, was formerly Zuma's deputy president. He was elected leader of the ruling ANC in December, narrowly defeating Zuma's chosen candidate, his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
  • The new president's resume includes both politics and business.
  • Ramaphosa is one of South Africa's richest men, with an estimated net worth of $450 million.
Cyril Ramaphosa, new president of South Africa, at parliament in Cape Town on February 15, 2018.
Mike Hutchings | AFP | Getty Images
Cyril Ramaphosa, new president of South Africa, at parliament in Cape Town on February 15, 2018.

African National Congress (ANC) leader Cyril Ramaphosa has been sworn in as South Africa's new president, following his predecessor Jacob Zuma's departure Wednesday night after a long power struggle.

Ramaphosa, 65, was formerly Zuma's deputy president. He was elected leader of the ruling ANC in December, narrowly defeating Zuma's chosen candidate, his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The new president's resume includes both politics and business. Ramaphosa is one of South Africa's richest men, with an estimated net worth of $450 million.

A lawyer by profession from Soweto, Ramaphosa was detained for anti-apartheid activism twice during the 1970s. He launched South Africa's most powerful trade union, the National Union of Mineworkers, in 1982.

Ramaphosa served as the ANC's chief negotiator ahead of South Africa's transition to democracy, and chairman of the committee which facilitated former President Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1990.

His hope to be Mandela's deputy was frustrated when Mandela chose Thabo Mbeki instead, who also went on to be president. Ramaphosa turned to business in the mid-1990s. His credentials include ownership of the McDonald's franchise in South Africa, and board positions at platinum miner Lonmin and mobile operator MTN.

Some controversies do surround Ramaphosa's work, however. He was a director at Lonmin during the Marikana massacre of 2012, in which 34 mineworkers were killed in strike action.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela with (from left) Carl Niehaus, Steve Tshwete, Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Andries Beyers and Moolman Mentz at discussions between the African National Congress and the Afrikaner Union.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela with (from left) Carl Niehaus, Steve Tshwete, Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Andries Beyers and Moolman Mentz at discussions between the African National Congress and the Afrikaner Union.

Hailed by the business community

South Africa's new president is hailed by the business community for his more pragmatic economic stance and firm words on fighting graft in the country.

Demonstrating Ramaphosa's favor with investors, the Johannesburg Top 40 index soared over 4 percent Thursday, while the rand reached near three year highs against the U.S. dollar.

Jacob Zuma stepped down late Wednesday night after giving an address on state television earlier in the day, in which he deemed his party's attempts to oust him as "unfair." "There's nothing I've done wrong," he said. Allegations of corruption have plagued his nine year tenure as head of state.

Ramaphosa's first State of the Nation address is anticipated to take place Friday. The speech was originally billed for February 8 but was cancelled just days before it was due to take place.

The new president's to-do list is extensive, as he is faced with reviving South Africa's sluggish economy, in which unemployment reached 27.3 percent in 2017, according to the World Bank. He must also unite the ANC ahead of elections in 2019, and help address the drought which is crippling Cape Town, one of South Africa's largest cities.

In response to the political upheaval, ratings agency S&P Global said Thursday that no changes to South Africa's BB+ rating or outlook would be made at present. Ramaphosa and his new administration "will require time to design and implement measures to improve economic growth and stabilize public finances," it said.