15 Feb

Ramaphosa Faces Challenge to Rejuvenate South Africa After Zuma

Cyril Ramaphosa faces a tough road ahead as South Africa’s new president after Jacob Zuma’s resignation late Wednesday ended nine years of his scandal-marred administration.

Ramaphosa remains acting president until his expected election in parliament later Thursday in Cape Town and swearing in by the chief justice.

Groups of people gathered in the streets of the country’s cities celebrating the possibility that South Africa may regain its reputation as “the rainbow nation” that was so tarnished in the Zuma era, while markets cheered the transition of power.

A lawyer and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, Ramaphosa, 65, is widely expected to adopt business-friendly policies, prompting the rand to rise more than any other currency against the dollar since his election as ANC leader on Dec. 18.

While he showed remarkable political deftness in outmanoeuvring Zuma since his tight election as president of the ruling African National Congress in December, the road ahead is perilous — the ANC remains deeply divided, the cabinet needs a clean-out and a moribund economy requires a jump-start.

“The new president is going to have to make tough decisions on who is in his cabinet and that’s where the tough fight is going to be from now on,” said Ivor Sarakinsky, academic director at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Governance in Johannesburg.

Markets cheered the decision, with the rand extending Wednesday’s 2 percent rally against against the dollar, reaching the strongest level since February 2015 on Thursday.

It was 0.5 percent higher at 11.6570 at 9:48 a.m. in Johannesburg. Stocks climbed the most since June 2016 and the yield on the local-currency bond due in 2026 dropped five basis points to 8.34 percent.

During his resignation speech, Zuma backed away from the tone of comments he’d made in an interview with the state broadcaster earlier in the day, when he said the ANC’s decision to push him from office threatened to become “a crisis that I think my comrades will not be able to handle.”

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