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  • People singing at the inauguration of Cyril Ramaphosa as President in Pretoria, South Africa, May 25, 2019.

    People singing at the inauguration of Cyril Ramaphosa as President in Pretoria, South Africa, May 25, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 May 2019

During his new mandate, Cyril Ramaphosa will have to tackle low economic growth, high unemployment and widespread poverty in one of world's most unequal nations.

The African National Congress (ANC) leader Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in Saturday as president of South Africa at a massive ceremony in Pretoria duing which he promised to boost economic growth, clean up corruption and foster social justice.

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"I pledge here today that I will serve you, I will work with you, side by side, to build the South Africa that we all want and deserve. A new era has dawned in our country," he said at the Loftus Versfeld stadium in front of an audience estimated at 32,000 people.

"I am honored by the confidence you have placed in me, I am aware of the challenges our country faces, but I also recognize that our people is full of hope for a better tomorrow," Ramaphosa told the crowd.

His re-election was possible thanks to the victory of the ANC in the May 8 elections although his party scored its worst results in the last 25 years in light of systemic government corruption and socio-economic problems.

"Despite our most serious efforts, many South Africans still go to bed hungry, many succumb to treatable diseases, many live with intolerable deficiencies.Too many do not work, especially young people," Ramaphosa acknowledged.

Nevertheless, the ANC leader said that challenges are not "insurmountable" and encouraged to build a South Africa without racism or sexism.

"Let us forge a compact for growth and economic opportunities, for productive land and wider opportunities," he said and added "a compact of an efficient, capable and ethical state. A state that is free from corruption."​​

Among the ceremony's guests were presidents of African countries such as Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). T​​​​he President of the Commission of the African Union (AU) Moussa Faki Mahamat and Cuba's first vice president Salvador Valdes Mesa were also both on hand to witness Ramaphosa's second swearing in.

Venezuelan's Social and Territorial Socialism Minister, Aristobulo Isturiz, also at the major event, thanked South Africa for its solidarity with his South American nation in the face of increased United States economic sanctions.

"The more our people resist, the more support and solidarity we find in the world," said Isturiz Friday and added, "on behalf of our people and President Nicolas Maduro, we want to thank for the solidarity we find here in South Africa."

Among Ramaphosa's main tasks for his five-years mandate is to increase the nation's economic growth, which reached only 0.8 percent in 2018, and to reduce poverty, which peacked at 56 percent in 2017. High unemployment, which affects 27 percent of the population and keeps South Africa as one of world's most unequal nations, is also on the newly inaugurated president's agenda.

Combating rampant corruption within the ANC and land ownership reform. The announcement of the new cabinet will be a sign of how Ramaphosa is going to deliver his promises.

"The speech was an honest and brutal reflection of South Africa's recent problems. But it was also optimistic," Political Futures Consultancy Director Daniel Silke, told Reuters, adding that "he will be judged on a very high bar and the next step is the cabinet. If it contains any semblance of the dead wood from the past he will be severely critiqued."

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