New South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged South Africans to continue the “long walk” Nelson Mandela began in a State of the Nation Address which touched on corruption, poverty, gender equality and racial divides.
Mr Ramaphosa, who was sworn in as president yesterday, told those gathered in Cape Town to hear the speech that the country should look to Mr Mandela’s example during what would have been his hundredth year.
“We are continuing the long walk he began, to build a society in which all may be free, in which all may be equal before the law and in which all may share in the wealth of our land and have a better life,” he said.
Mr Ramaphosa’s speech emphasises a feeling of hope which appears to have swept the country since he took power this week following nine years under Jacob Zuma’s presidency.
Mr Zuma’s tenure was marked by allegations of corruption at the highest levels.
Mr Ramaphosa stood on for the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) on an anti-corruption platform, and once again turned to Mr Mandela’s example to drive through the message he would not accept any such behaviour under his watch.
“We have dedicated this year to [Mr Mandela’s] memory and we will devote our every action, every effort, every utterance to the realisation of his vision of a democratic, just and equitable society,” he said.
“Guided by his example, we will use this year to reinforce our commitment to ethical behaviour and ethical leadership.”
Mr. Ramaphosa spoke of a “new dawn”, promisingto “turn the tide of corruption”.
He also spoke of accelerating land redistribution and outlined plans to boost the economy and create jobs.
His predecessor, Jacob Zuma, stepped down on Wednesday after pressure from the governing ANC party. He faces numerous corruption allegations.
Mr Ramaphosa, a 65-year-old former businessman, dedicated much of his address to parliament to job creation. He said that the country faced “tough decisions” because of its stagnating economy and large national debt.
He highlighted youth unemployment and said he planned to create a million paid internships in the coming years.
“This is the year in which we will turn the tide of corruption in our public institutions,” he said.
“We are determined to build a society defined by decency and integrity, that does not tolerate the plunder of public resources, nor the theft by corporate criminals of the hard-earned savings of ordinary people.”
He drew applause when he thanked South Africans for their patience during the last turbulent week.
Opposition Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said the president could have pledged “bolder action”, and complained, “I heard more of the same stuff”.
But Julius Malema, head of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party, said he would give the new leader “the benefit of the doubt”.
Earlier in the week, the ANC (African National Congress) had told Mr Zuma to step down or face a vote of no-confidence in parliament on Thursday.
Mr Zuma, who had been in power since 2009, finally gave way in a resignation speech late on Wednesday.
The allegations of corruption he faces include claims that he allowed the wealthy Gupta family, to whom he has personal ties, to wield influence over government policy.
Both Mr Zuma and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.