Jacob Zuma was his confident self when he committed himself to serving South Africa with integrity and uphold the rule of law when he was sworn in as the country’s president for the second time on Saturday morning. After a swearing-in ceremony presided over by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the Union Buildings’ Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre, Zuma sought to assure South Africans that he had their interests at heart.
“I’m greatly honoured to accept the mandate bestowed upon us by millions of our people to lead this great nation for the next five years,” he said. “I accept this responsibility and privilege with great humility, given the history of our country and where we come from as a nation.”
From promising to improve life further and acknowledging shortfalls of his first administration and those of his predecessors, Zuma preached unity, working together and patience, as South Africa works on reversing the legacy of apartheid.
But there is more to do, Zuma said. “A lot of progress has been made. Millions of our people now have access to basic social services and an improved quality of life, which they did not enjoy before the dawn of freedom. However, our work is not yet completed.”
Zuma said his administration conducted what he called “a frank, formal review” of progress made in the past 20 years of democratic rule, which indicated that South Africa is a “much better” place to live in than it was before 1994.
This was because of the government’s “transformative policies”, he said. That review, however, also confirmed that while millions of people have had their lives improved, poverty, inequality and unemployment were still a problem.
Quoting from the ANC’s resolutions from the 2012 national congress held in Mangaung in the Free State, Zuma said the day of his second inauguration marked the beginning of the “second phase of our transition from apartheid to a national democratic society”.
The implementation of radical socio-economic transformation policies and programmes will be at the centre of this second phase, he said. His new administration will look to government’s National Development Plan – the road map to improve the economy and socio-economic conditions of South Africans – to ensure prosperity and success.
“Our vision is to develop communities where households will have access to housing, water, electricity, sanitation, safe and reliable public transport, health, education, security, recreational facilities, a clean environment and adequate nutrition to count a few.
“Economic transformation will take centre stage during this new term of government as we put the economy on an inclusive growth path”.
Speaking from the heart
It was however when he addressed the crowd gathered on the Union Buildings’s Southern Lawns, alongside his first wife Sizakele “MaKhumalo” Zuma, that Zuma spoke from the heart. His address was mainly based on ANC election manifesto promises as he sounded more and more like a party president talking to card-carrying members and loyal supporters.
“This is your government and you have made a call that we must work together,” he said in his mother tongue, IsiZulu. “Those who’ll be chosen to serve in this government, we want them to work as expected. Those who fail or are lazy we’ll remove them and put the ones who are determined because we want to speed things up in these five years,” he said.
In the past five-year term, Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet twice and fired several ministers.
“We are not going to fear anyone or be shy, we will do everything that we promised we will do in our election manifesto,” he told the excited crowd of about 4 000. Zuma is likely to announce his Cabinet on Sunday after meeting with the ANC’s national executive committee. In his written speech earlier, Zuma had promised to serve South Africans with “humility, commitment and dedication” and that his new administration will serve the country with “courtesy, ubuntu and efficiency”.
But it will not be an easy ride, patience will be required he cautioned. “The road ahead is long and demanding. The challenges ahead may seem insurmountable, but we are determined to succeed, as we have always succeeded in our efforts to overcome challenges.”