Drama marks election of Cyril Ramaphosa as SA president

Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected president of SA at the first sitting of the National Assembly held on Wednesday.
Cyril Ramaphosa has been elected president of SA at the first sitting of the National Assembly held on Wednesday.
Image: Esa Alexander

Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president at a dramatic first sitting of the National Assembly in Cape Town in which several prominent ANC candidates pulled out of parliament as the first signs of his government emerged.

ANC deputy president David Mabuza asked to “postpone” his swearing-in so that he could clear his name after the party’s integrity commission listed him among several prospective MPs who may have brought the ANC into disrepute.

He is said to have made the decision voluntarily.

Ramaphosa made the announcement shortly before the first sitting of the sixth parliament on Wednesday.

The intrigue that lay behind this decision is still not quite clear and now opens up speculation about who Ramaphosa will appoint as his deputy.

Names being touted are Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whom he narrowly beat to the position of ANC president in 2017, and long-serving minister Naledi Pandor.

Ramaphosa is expected to announce his reconfigured executive after his inauguration at the weekend.

He told the National Assembly that there would be “tough leadership”.

“I assure you, as we address the needs of people we will take difficult decisions and some might be tough decisions against certain people and interest groups,” he said.

“Our people yearn for change and change is what we are going to offer them.”

Mabuza was the first candidate to step aside, citing the integrity commission report.

SA’s rand and bonds gained in the immediate aftermath as some traders interpreted the developments as a signal that Ramaphosa was making progress towards meeting his pledge to use his victory to clean up government and create a more effective state.

Mabuza has been connected to allegations of fraud and corruption in Mpumalanga, the province he led for almost a decade as premier.

There were also allegations he was behind political killings in the province.

At the eleventh hour, erstwhile environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane also decided to withdraw from the list, citing family responsibility and the fact that she was still in mourning following her husband’s death in April.

She was also on the list of people the integrity commission had reportedly named as possibly having brought the ANC into disrepute, and was accused in the state capture commission of inquiry of taking bribes from facilities management company Bosasa.

Disgraced former finance minister Malusi Gigaba and former National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete withdrew from the candidate list on Tuesday.

MPs who served as cabinet ministers in the previous administration and who believe they will not be reappointed have an interest in resigning before the new executive is appointed as this enables them to hold onto their ministerial pension, which is substantially higher than an MP’s salary.

Mabuza has not completely withdrawn from the list, but asked to have his swearing-in postponed so that he can engage with the commission on the allegations against him.

A close confidant of Mabuza said that the integrity commission had not called him before it, and therefore he had been unable to clear his name.

“What he has done now has raised the bar,” the person said.

Integrity commission chair George Mashamba said the commission had been asked to review the ANC list, but it had not spoken with anyone.

He said the commission would meet those mentioned in the report from Sunday.

Mabuza would not say anything more about his decision except to confirm his swearingin had been postponed.

Another ANC MP who has been named in ethical or possible legal transgressions, Bathabile Dlamini, did not withdraw and was sworn in, along with former ministers Mosebenzi Zwane and Faith Muthambi, both of whom have been implicated in state capture claims.

Finance minister Tito Mboweni, who arrived an hour late, had fellow MPs speculating on whether he had changed his mind about returning to parliament.