After nine years in office President Jacob Zuma has been replaced by his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa already took over the leadership of the African National Congress in Decempber. An economy in tatters, unemployment, a corrupt political system - observers outline the challenges facing South Africa's new leader.
The second South African liberation
Zuma's replacement could be the most significant event in South Africa since the victory over Apartheid, the Frankfurter Runschau believes:
“The downfall of the South African constitutional state has at least been delayed. Now the question is how thoroughly the new strongman can clean things up. Ramaphosa won the election as ANC leader in December with a lead of less than one percent. Nelson Mandela's former liberation movement is still infiltrated by countless gangsters, unprincipled profiteers and opportunists. ... Ramaphosa's biggest challenge is only starting now: if he can't give the 106-year-old ANC and his country a new moral and political direction, his long march to a second South African liberation will have been in vain.”
The Zuma system can hardly be overcome
The Tages-Anzeiger newspaper outlines the difficult tasks Cyril Ramaphosa faces:
“Jacob Zuma leaves behind a country in such a state of political and economic ruin that one wonders how one person alone is supposed to put it all right again. Because Ramaphosa doesn't have that many political friends. And it's not as if the fight against corruption in the party is a top priority for everyone; the more resolute Ramaphosa's fight, the more fierce the resistance will be. ... This will be an epic battle against those who benefited from the Zuma system - all of whom are still there. Ramaphosa is regarded by many who encountered him personally as an excellent negotiator who can reconcile the divided party and the country too. The question is what is there to negotiate with the corrupt old system?”
Cape of good hope?
Les Echos looks back at Ramaphosa's career to date:
“At 65, Ramaphosa is casting himself as a potential saviour who can repair the Rainbow Nation's ailing economy. ... He's one of the richest men in Africa and the 12th richest in South Africa. His business Shanduka is active in all sectors: finances, mining, fast food, Coca Cola, McDonald's franchises, etc. Nelson 'Madiba' Mandela had a very high opinion of him and considered him his spiritual son. And he wanted him as his successor. But the ANC preferred Thabo Mbeki. That was the moment when Cyril Ramaphosa set out to make his fortune. And now here he is again, he's returned to his 'roots' and speaks of a 'new start' in this year that marks the hundredth anniversary of Mandela's birth. Cape of good hope?”
Confidence is fragile
Svenska Dagbladet points to how deeply insecure South Africa is as the Zuma era comes to an end:
“Ipsos published [in January 2018] its report 'What worries the world'. This study shows that 73 percent of South Africa's population believes that the country is on the wrong track. Only 27 percent believe it's on the right track. But the proportion of those who believe the country is on the right track has grown by 17 (!) percent within a month. It's easy to conclude that the change in the ANC leadership played a major part here. ... Clearly Jacob Zuma not only failed to grasp which issues the people were most concerned about, he also didn't fulfil his obligation to lead South Africa towards a better future. Now we must wait and see what Cyril Ramaphosa can do.”