The comeback kid

Parliament is set to choose Jacob Zuma as state president on Wednesday after the ANC’s resounding election victory, capping a remarkable political comeback.

After an eight-year battle with corruption charges that threatened to ruin him, Zuma takes on an economy that may already be in its first recession in 17 years, and challenges such as widespread poverty, crime and HIV/Aids.

The new government is expected to leave conservative and fiscal policies in place in Africa’s biggest economy to cushion the impact of the global credit crunch and reassure investors who fear Zuma may steer the economy to the left.

The charismatic former freedom fighter, whose graft charges were dropped just before the April 22 poll, will be inaugurated on Saturday and is expected to name a Cabinet soon after.

Zuma has denied any wrongdoing and said he is the victim of a political conspiracy.

The fate of Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, widely respected by financial markets, will be closely watched by investors hoping for continuity.

Chief Justice Pius Langa began swearing in the 400 new MPs and the Parliament was expected to elect Zuma at noon GMT.

Premiers sworn in
Nomvula Mokonyane was on Wednesday officially declared the premier of Gauteng.

Mokonyane was nominated by former Gauteng premier Paul Mashatile and the nomination was seconded by MP Lindiwe Maseko.

“We the undersigned nominate Nomvula Paula Mokonyane for the position of premier of Gauteng,” Mashatile told the house in Johannesburg.

There were no other nominations and therefore Mokonyane was declared the premier of the Gauteng province just after 10.30am.

Mokonyane and Mashatile hugged after the declaration and the house broke into applause.

Maseko was officially elected as the speaker of the provincial legislature and in turn she presided over the election of her deputy, Stewart Ngwenya.

Free State ANC chairperson Ace Magashule was on Wednesday declared Free State premier

The announcement of Magashule’s premiership by acting Free State judge president Faan Hancke was greeted with a huge cheer, chanting and the singing of ANC songs at the Mangaung Indoor Sport’s Centre.

Magashule later thanked the ANC for the appointment.

The leader of Cope in the legislature, Cascha Mokitlane, also congratulated Magashule. He told Magashule his election was a personal and organisational triumph.

Free State Freedom Front Plus leader Abrie Oosthuizen said: “It’s been a long, long walk for the honourable premier, but at last he is premier.”

Oosthuizen urged Magashule to gather a strong team around him to lead the province.

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Roy Jankielsohn said Magashule should ensure the province delivered on quality education, healthcare and infrastructure.

DA leader Helen Zille was formally elected premier of the Western Cape.

Zille, formerly mayor of Cape Town, will lead a 22-member DA team in the legislature.

The ANC has 14 seats; Cope, the Independent Democrats and the African Christian Democratic Party share the remaining six.

Zille, wearing a burnt gold suit, was greeted with a burst of applause when she entered the chamber a minute after 10am.

Though the ANC proposed former premier Lynne Brown as its candidate, Zille took the vote by 24 to 14.

There were four spoiled papers.

Zille’s 90-year-old mother Mila, and husband academic Johann Maree, watched from a VIP box as she clenched her first in a victory salute.

And in KwaZulu-Natal Zweli Mkhize was sworn in as the province’s premier.

He was elected by the majority of KwaZulu-Natal’s 80-member legislature at the legislature complex in Pietermaritzburg.

Mkhize, the ANC’s provincial chairperson, trounced the DA’s John Steenhuisen by 68 votes to seven. There were four spoilt votes and one member did not vote.
The Independent Electoral Commission monitored proceedings.

Addressing the legislature, Mkhize said the government’s priority in the next five years would be improving service delivery, fighting poverty, unemployment, crime and corruption. The government would also promote rural development, revamp health and education.

Mkhize congratulated Zuma ahead of his certain election as South Africa’s next president. He also paid tribute to his predecessor Sbu Ndebele for “a job well done as premier”.

“He conducted himself in a manner that bestowed dignity to the office of the first citizen of our province. He leaves behind a catalogue of achievements and a wonderful camaraderie among colleagues and comrades.”

Mkhize, the former finance minister, now faces the task of choosing his new Cabinet, which is expected to be announced on Monday.

Earlier on Wednesday, visibly excited new members, mainly from the ANC, were waiting outside the legislature in Pietermaritzburg for the start of the ceremony.

By 11.30am, the speaker and the deputy speaker had not yet been elected.

The ANC had nominated its provincial treasurer and former provincial health minister Peggy Nkonyeni as candidate for speaker, and former agriculture MEC Mtholephi Mthimkhulu for deputy speaker. If elected he would take over from Professor Gabriel Ndabandaba, who had moved to national Parliament.

Mediation skills
Zuma’s trade union and Communist Party allies, who want him to spend more on the poor, have helped him survive a series of crises that threatened to destroy his career, including rape charges dropped in 2006.

The charismatic politician is known for mediation skills which could enable him to prevent any new party fractures. In the 1990s, Zuma mediated between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party to end political violence which left thousands dead.

The ANC will come under mounting pressure to deliver on 15 years of promises to help millions of black South Africans still living in grim townships.

United Democratic Movement leader (UDM) Bantu Holomisa on Tuesday urged opposition groups to merge into one party to offer a strong alternative to the ANC. - Sapa, Reuters

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