President Vladimir Putin of Russia has congratulated Cyril Ramaphosa on his election as the President of South Africa, the Kremlin’s press service said Friday.
Putin also expressed appreciation for his contribution to the struggle against apartheid and the emergence of a democratic society in the country.
“Putin sent a congratulatory telegram to Ramaphosa on the occasion of his election as the President of South Africa.
“The Russian leader expressed appreciation for Ramaphosa’s contribution to the struggle against apartheid and the establishment of a democratic society in South Africa, and expressed the belief that his work as the president would further advance the country toward progress and prosperity,” the press release read.
Ramaphosa took over as president of South Africa on Thursday, immediately vowing to fight corruption in a direct reference to accusations levelled against his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
Ramaphosa’s appointment as head of state came less than 16 hours after his rival Zuma resigned, having defiantly refused to leave office for days.
Within minutes of the result of a parliamentary vote being announced t in Cape Town, Ramaphosa said he would move to tackle endemic graft in South Africa.
“Issues to do with corruption, issues of how we can straighten out our state-owned enterprises and how we deal with ‘state capture’ are issues that are on our radar screen,” he said, in a reference to improper influence over government institutions, ministers and state-owned businesses by Zuma’s associates.
Ramaphosa, 65, sat quietly while lawmakers from the ruling African National Congress stood, clapped and sang in celebration.
He was elected unopposed.
In a short speech, the former deputy president reached out to opposition parties, telling parliamentarians that “South Africa must come first in everything we do”.
““This is not yet uhuru (freedom). We have never said it is uhuru. We are going to seek to improve the lives of our people on an ongoing basis, and since 1994, we have done precisely that,” Ramaphosa said.
The ANC has a substantial majority in parliament and the vote was effectively a formality.
Although deeply divided, the party has already closed ranks after the crisis of recent days and rallied around Ramaphosa.
Party officials who nominated him described the president as “a revolutionary cadre who has served the people of South Africa all his life and will strength the unity of our country”.
Patrick Maesela, an ANC MP, said: “Africa and the world are pinning their hopes on your revolutionary leadership.”
The Economic Freedom Fighters, a radical leftwing opposition party, walked out of parliament, saying the assembly was illegitimate and new elections were necessary.
Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, offered congratulations and said his party would “cooperate” if the president “acts in the interests of the people of South Africa”.
Maimane said the country did not have a “Jacob Zuma problem but … an ANC problem”.
Ramaphosa, a former anti-apartheid activist turned successful businessman, is the standard bearer for the moderate, reformist faction of the ANC.
Commentators said Zuma, 75, represented the party’s more populist, nationalist elements.
The latter’s resignation put an end to an intense political crisis that threatened to inflict significant damage on the ANC, which has ruled South Africa since the country’s first free elections in 1994.
In a televised address to the nation late on Wednesday, Zuma said he was a disciplined member of the party, to which he had dedicated his life.
“I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment.
“I will continue to serve the people of South Africa and the ANC. I will dedicate my life to continuing to work for the execution of the policies of our organisation.
“The ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect,” Zuma said.
The announcement ended an extraordinary day in South African politics, which begun with a dawn raid on the home of the Guptas, a business family at the centre of recent corruption allegations levelled at Zuma.
Ajay Gupta, one of the three Gupta brothers accused of having improper links to Zuma, was declared a fugitive from justice on Thursday after failing to hand himself in to police.
Zuma, who has led the ANC since 2007 and been South Africa’s president since 2009, was due to leave power next year.
His tenure was marred by economic decline and multiple charges of graft, undermining the image and legitimacy of the party that led the struggle against apartheid.