Zuma takes the oath

Jacob Zuma officially became South Africa’s fourth president since democracy at 11.20am on Saturday when he took the oath of office at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Led by Chief Justice Pius Langa, he declared: ”I, Jacob Zuma, solemnly swear … that I will observe and maintain the Constitution of the republic and I solemnly and sincerely promise that I will always promote all that will advance the public, and oppose all that may harm it.”

Zuma swore to ”protect and promote the rights of all South Africans”.

Zuma said he would let ”truth be the dictate of my conscience”.

”I will devote myself to the well-being of the republic and all of its people. So help me God,” he said, to loud applause.

A moment of renewal, was how Zuma described his

He said when Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, a new nation was born, founded on the principles of human dignity.

”We gather here determined to renew that most solemn undertaking to build a society in which all people are free from the shackles of discrimination, exploitation … and disease. We gather here determined that the struggle and sacrifices of our people shall not be in vain, instead they shall inspire to complete the task for which so much blood was spilled.”

Zuma added: ”This is a moment of renewal.”

Earlier former president Thabo Mbeki and his former deputy, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, were booed as their arrivals were announced.

Mbeki arrived with his wife, Zanele, shortly after Mandela.

He made his way to his seat amidst boos from sections of the crowd, who were swaying to struggle songs.

Mbeki was believed to be behind an alleged political conspiracy against Zuma.

Mlambo-Ngcuka went public with her support for the breakaway Congress of the People party.

She is also the wife of former chief prosecutor Bulelani Ngcuka, who was named as a key player in the alleged conspiracy against Zuma.

For Zuma (67), taking the oath was unthinkable during turbulent years when graft and rape charges nearly ruined him, crises that might have buried many politicians.

At the top of Zuma’s agenda will be navigating Africa’s biggest economy through what could already be its first recession in 17 years.

One of his big challenges will be juggling the interests of markets and labour and communist allies who want more government spending on millions still living in abject poverty 15 years after the end of apartheid.

Investors are eager to see who forms his economic team and are especially interested in the fate of Manuel, praised for his fiscal management.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the swearing in ceremony scheduled for 9am GMT, Manuel expressed confidence in Zuma’s abilities.

”Frequently people look for experience. But what matters is attitude and aptitude,” he said. ”The mood is very buoyed. Feeling very strong. There’s a big wave to ride.”

Stacking the government, to be named on Sunday, with loyalists could hurt the credibility of Zuma, who has said ANC officials should not expect positions just because of their loyalty.

Policy decisions
Mike Davies, Middle East & Africa analyst at political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group, predicts Zuma will be pragmatic.

”Cabinet appointments, which will … include a mix of loyalists and experience, should boost confidence that president elect Jacob Zuma’s administration will not make radical changes to economic policy,” he said.

”Leftists are unlikely to be given portfolios of key concern to investors.”

”I am extremely happy. Zuma will give us houses, fight corruption and crime. We got here, we voted for him and we expect him to fight for South Africa,” said Mirriam Segabutla. Others were cautious.

”Zuma has to change a lot of things because we voted for him. He can’t afford to disappoint us,” said Barbara Nkadimeng.

His political career has been fraught with crises. Then president Thabo Mbeki fired Zuma in 2005 after he was implicated in a corruption scandal.

Zuma battled graft charges for eight years which were dropped just before the election on a technicality. He was acquitted of rage charges in 2006 but his image still suffers from the case.

Strong support from union and the communist allies and his resilience and charm helped him survive.

Zuma has said he will consult widely before making major policy decisions, an approach that may ease opposition fears that the new administration will stifle dissent.

The charismatic leader is known for his mediation skills, which could help him prevent ANC power struggles which led dissidents to form a breakaway party. – Reuters, Sapa

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