Belfast Telegraph

New South African leader Ramaphosa inspected IRA arms during peace process

By Christopher Torchia

Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to address the issue of corruption after being elected South Africa's new President.

The appointment of the African National Congress (ANC) leader - one of two men who inspected IRA arms at a key moment in Northern Ireland's peace process - follows the scandal-tainted reign of his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

ANC MPs and supporters burst into song after the announcement.

"I will try very hard not to disappoint the people of South Africa," Mr Ramaphosa said in ending his speech to parliament shortly after it elected him. He said the issue of corruption is on "our radar screen".

Mr Ramaphosa played an important part in the Northern Ireland peace process when it was unravelling over the issue of IRA weapons. He and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari reported in 2000 that they had secretly inspected arms dumps.

Mr Ramaphosa was the only candidate nominated for election after two opposition parties said they would not participate. The two parties instead unsuccessfully called for the dissolution of the National Assembly and early elections.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng presided over the parliamentary election and congratulated Mr Ramaphosa, who had been Mr Zuma's deputy and in December was narrowly elected leader of the ruling party over Mr Zuma's ex-wife.

Mr Zuma resigned after years of scandals that damaged the reputation of the ruling ANC, which had instructed him this week to step down or face a parliamentary motion of no confidence that he would have almost certainly lost. Mr Zuma denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Ramaphosa is South Africa's fifth president since the end of the apartheid in 1994.

He is expected to deliver the state of the nation address tonight that had been postponed during the ruling party's days of closed-door negotiations to persuade Mr Zuma to resign.

The country's main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, will cooperate with Mr Ramaphosa if he acts in the interests of the South African people, said party leader Mmusi Maimane.

"We will hold you accountable and I will see you in 2019 on the ballot box," Mr Maimane said.

Members of a smaller opposition party walked out of parliament before the election, saying the ANC plan to choose a new president was "illegitimate".

Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters party, said ANC politicians had failed to hold Mr Zuma to account for alleged corruption and so had violated the constitution.

Mr Ramaphosa now is challenged with reviving the reputation of the ANC, Africa's most prominent liberation movement, which fought apartheid and has been in power since the first all-race elections in 1994.

The party's popularity fell as anger over corruption allegations grew and it suffered its worst showing at the polls in municipal elections in 2016.

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