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South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to intervene to accelerate land reform/AFP/File / GULSHAN KHAN

S.Africa lashes Trump over land ‘seizures’ tweet

South Africa accused US President Donald Trump of fuelling racial tensions on Thursday after he said farmers were being forced off their land and many of them killed. Trump’s tweet touches on the overwhelmingly white ownership of farmland in South Africa — one of the most sensitive issues in the country’s post-apartheid history. Responding within …

Cyril Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa succeeds Zuma as South African president

Cyril Ramaphosa has become South Africa’s president a day after embattled leader Jacob Zuma resigned.

He was the only candidate nominated by parliament, which is dominated by his African National Congress. MPs broke into song at the announcement.

In his first presidential speech, Mr Ramaphosa, 65, said he would tackle the corruption which allegedly became widespread under Mr Zuma.

The ANC had told Mr Zuma to step down or face a vote of no-confidence.

Mr Zuma faces numerous corruption allegations but denies any wrongdoing.

One allegation is that he allowed the wealthy Gupta family, who whom he has personal ties, to wield influence over policy, in an example of “state capture”.

An arrest warrant has been issued for Ajay Gupta, one of the three most prominent Gupta brothers, officials said on Thursday.

This follows a raid by the Hawks, an elite police unit, on their home on Wednesday. The family has denied corruption allegations.

President Ramaphosa told parliament that corruption and state capture were “on our radar screen”.

He is due to deliver a State of the Nation address on Friday. This was delayed last week amid uncertainty about who should deliver it and Mr Zuma’s reluctance to step down.

One opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, walked out of the parliamentary debate. It wants new elections, rather than the ANC deciding on the identity of the new president.

 
Dream finally realised

Analysis: Lebo Diseko, BBC News, Johannesburg

It is often said that Mr Ramaphosa has had his eye on the position of president since the ANC came to power in 1994.

The story goes that he was so upset at not having been chosen by Nelson Mandela as his successor that he left politics and went into business.

But Mr Ramaphosa has now finally realised that dream.

He has said his priority is reviving South Africa’s battered economy. But it won’t be easy: Unemployment is currently at almost 30%, a rate which rises to nearly 40% for young people.

Low growth rates and dwindling investor confidence were compounded by two credit agencies downgrading the economy to junk status.

One of the first steps in improving that investor confidence is addressing the persistent claims of corruption at the heart of government.

 
New hope for the economy
There is a renewed sense of hope as Mr Ramaphosa is taking over the reins of Africa’s most industrialised economy.

The markets appeared to welcome Mr Zuma’s resignation. The South African currency, the rand, reaching its strongest levels in three years – at 11.6570 rand for $1 in early trading.

Some will miss him though, pointing to achievements like announcing the abolition of fees for higher education, says the BBC’s Milton Nkosi in Johannesburg.

Mr Zuma, a former member of the ANC’s military wing in the days of apartheid, rose through the ranks of the party to become president. He led the country for more than a third of its time after apartheid.

But he leaves office with several scandals hanging over him, and with South Africa’s economy in dire straits.

Money laundering charges
Shaun Abrahams, head of the National Prosecuting Authority, told Reuters news agency: “I’ve been advised by my prosecuting team that Mr. Ajay Gupta is a fugitive from justice.”

But eight other suspects did appear in court on Thursday on fraud and money laundering charges, local media report.

The only member of the Gupta family to appear was Varun, who was Chief Operating Officer of the Gupta-owned mining firm Oakbay Resources and Energy. All eight told the court they had done nothing wrong.

Jacob Zuma

South Africa starts walk back to post-Zuma rehabilitation

South Africans awoke to a nation without Jacob Zuma as president for the first time in nine years on Thursday, after the scandal-plagued head of state reluctantly resigned on orders from the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

Acting president Cyril Ramaphosa is due to be confirmed as Zuma’s permanent successor in a parliamentary vote at 2pm (1200 GMT), ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said.

The road back to prosperity and self-respect under Ramaphosa, who became ANC head in December, will be long and hard in a nation divided by race and inequality.

But Zuma’s departure offers evidence of the strength of South Africa’s institutions, from the courts to the media and the constitution. He resigned as president late on Wednesday after nine years in office.

The 75-year-old said in a 30-minute farewell address to the nation he disagreed with the way the ANC had pushed him towards an early exit after Ramaphosa replaced him as party president, but would accept its orders.

“Defiant in defeat” and “Going, Going, Gone” were some of the newspaper headlines that captured Zuma’s reluctance to leave.

“South Africa’s long nightmare is over,” read the headline of an analysis on online news site Daily Maverick.

The foundation set up to guard the legacy of the late anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela said on Thursday Zuma’s resignation brought to an end “a painful era for the country.”

The ANC hailed Zuma’s decision to resign.

STATE-OF-THE-NATION ADDRESS

Ramaphosa is due to be chosen by lawmakers as permanent president later in the day, a role he will fill until elections next year.

His appointment appears certain as the ANC holds a majority in parliament, though lawmakers will hold a secret ballot if he is not the sole candidate.

“The office of the chief justice has made itself available today to officiate in the business of electing a new president,” Mthembu told a parliamentary committee meeting.

Speaker of parliament Baleke Mbete said an official letter of resignation from Zuma was “still on its way”.

Ramaphosa’s first state of the nation address was expected to take place on Friday. The speech had been scheduled to be delivered by Zuma last Thursday, but was postponed after pressure mounted for him to resign.

The rand currency, which has gained ground whenever Zuma hit political turbulence, soared to a near three-year high against the dollar on Zuma’s resignation.

“One chapter in South Africa’s political soap-opera has finally ended with the resignation last night of President Jacob Zuma,” NKC African Economics analysts wrote in a note.

“It would be gratifying to see the dedication and purpose the ANC put into ridding itself of Zuma now be directed into rebuilding the economy, dealing with the corruption still residing in the ANC and improving its shoddy governance record.”

Zuma’s resignation came just hours after police raided the luxury home of the Gupta family, Indian-born billionaire allies of the former president who have been at the center of corruption allegations against Zuma and his circle for years.

Zuma and the Guptas have always denied wrongdoing.

Police said on Wednesday three people were arrested during the raids on various properties in Johannesburg.

State broadcaster SABC said a Gupta family member was among those detained, while a senior judicial source said police were expected to arrest up to seven more people and that Gupta family members would be among them.

Police said the raid was in connection with a state-funded dairy farm, which prosecutors last month called a “scheme designed to defraud and steal”.

The suspects were expected to appear in court on Thursday.

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo – Additiona reporting by Ed Cropley in Johannesburg and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Editing by John Stonestreet/Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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