A wealthy businessman, who was a close ally of Nelson Mandela’s, took over on Thursday (Feb. 15) as South Africa’s new leader.
Parliament confirmed Cyril Ramaphosa as the nation’s new president hours after Jacob Zuma resigned his presidency on Wednesday under pressure from leaders of his own ruling African National Congress (ANC). Zuma, who was elected president in 2009, was mired in several corruption scandals. ANC lawmakers congratulated Ramaphosa as they try to take the party in a new direction.
“I truly feel humbled to have been given this great privilege of being able to serve our people,” Ramaphosa declared in an address to parliament after his confirmation, adding that he would work diligently “not to disappoint the people of South Africa.”
Below, key background on Ramaphosa:
A trade union-leader-turned-businessman
Ramaphosa, 65, is one of South Africa’s wealthiest businessmen with an estimated net worth of $450 million. He was a trade union leader during the apartheid era and built his wealth after the ANC came to power in 1994. The new president is married to Tshepo Motsepe, the sister of Africa’s richest Black businessman Patrice Motsepe.
Ramaphosa, a lawyer, was Mandela’s chief negotiator in crafting the post-apartheid constitution for the country after White minority rule. His negotiating skills earned him international praise, including an invitation in 2000 to be one of two international arms inspectors in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Mandela reportedly wanted Ramaphosa to succeed him as president. Instead, ANC leaders pressured Mandela to back Thabo Mbeki. After this disappointment, Ramaphosa left politics and turned his attention to business.
Leader of the ANC
Despite his earlier setback in the political arena, Ramaphosa returned, eventually rising this past December to become head of the ANC.