South African President Jacob Zuma was sworn in for a second term today to face the same challenges of his first five years: fighting graft allegations while boosting economic growth and creating jobs.
Zuma, 72, was inaugurated in a ceremony in the open-air Nelson Mandela amphitheater at the Union Buildings in the capital, Pretoria. About 40 African leaders and 4,500 dignitaries attended, including Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan and former South African President Thabo Mbeki.
“I, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, swear that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa and will obey, observe, uphold and maintain the constitution and all other laws,” Zuma said, repeating the oath he first took on May 9, 1999. “I will always promote all that will advance the republic and oppose all that will harm it.”
The National Assembly, where the ruling African National Congress holds 249 of the legislature’s 400 seats, selected Zuma as president on May 21 at its first sitting after general elections on May 7. He is due to announce his new cabinet tomorrow.
South African Air Force helicopters and planes conducted a flyover of today’s ceremony, which was screened live on state television. U.S. President Barack Obama called Zuma on May 23 to congratulate him on his re-election, the White House said in a statement on its website.
Zuma, a former ANC intelligence operative who spent a decade in prison for fighting apartheid, faced repeated personal scandals during his first term. He took the oath of office amid mounting protests among poor communities over a lack of housing and government services, a 25 percent jobless rate and an economy that’s growing at half the state’s 5.4 percent target rate.
A polygamist with four wives and more than 20 children, he fathered an extramarital child with a friend’s daughter and was accused by the nation’s ombudsman of unduly benefiting from a state-funded 215 million rand ($21 million) home upgrade.
Zuma issued a public apology for his sexual indiscretions, while denying any involvement in graft.
While half of 3,564 adults polled by research company Ipsos in November last year rating Zuma’s performance as poor, the scandals didn’t undermine his control of the ANC.
As recently as 2005, Zuma appeared headed for political obscurity when then-President Mbeki fired him after he was implicated in a graft trial.
He fought back and won control of the ANC from Mbeki in December 2007 with the backing of the nation’s labor unions. Prosecutors abandoned an eight-year bid to charge Zuma for taking 4.07 million rand in bribes just weeks before he was appointed president.
He won a second term as party leader in December 2012 and was elected unopposed as president by the National Assembly, a formality after the ANC won 62 percent support in the elections. The victory was its fifth straight since it took power in 1994 under Mandela, who died Dec. 5 at the age of 95.
“This second phase will involve the implementation of radical socio-economic transformation policies and programs over the next five years,” Zuma said after his inauguration today. “The structure of the economy will be transformed through industrialization, broad-based black economic empowerment and through strengthening and expanding the role of the state in the economy.”
While the government declined to disclose the cost of today’s ceremony, the main opposition Democratic Alliance said it will cost about 120 million rand and the expense is “unconscionable” given that joblessness and poverty is rampant.