Humbled Zuma promises a better SA

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

President-elect Jacob Zuma says his election has started a new chapter for the country, promising that the new government will be more hands-on, more accessible and will deliver on its promises.

Zuma promised to leave an indelible mark on the areas of health, education, land reform, rural development, fight against crime, and creating decent work in his five-year term.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday after being elected president of the country, Zuma said he was "humbled and overwhelmed by the responsibility that is being thrust upon my shoulders".

He promised to move quickly to implement the plan drawn up last year to combat job losses caused by the global economic crisis.

Zuma said the ANC intended to start a new chapter in relations between government and the opposition to work together on matters of national interest.

He promised that ANC MPs would "avoid being over-defensive and will not view all criticism from the opposition negatively".

Zuma warned public servants that the new government expected "hard work and utmost dedication".

Not suprisingly, Zuma praised South Africa's first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela and outgoing president Kgalema Motlanthe, but did not utter a word about Thabo Mbeki.

ANC MPs jeered loudly when Cope deputy-president Mbhazima Shilowa nominated Cope's parliamentary leader Mvume Dandala for president.

During the vote, Zuma sat silently while ANC MPs sang "Zuma is going to rule, Mbhazima is a fool".

Although Cope only has 30 MPs, Dandala received 47 votes in the secret ballot.

But he was no match for Zuma, who was voted into the presidency with an overwhelming 277 votes.

The DA's 67 MPs and three unknown MPs abstained from voting, while three ballots were spoilt.

Opposition parties issued mixed messages of congratulations to the president-elect.

DA MP Ian Davidson said Zuma's real test would be to allow the courts to hear the DA's application for a judicial review of the NPA's decision to drop charges against Zuma.

In congratulating Zuma, Cope leader Mvume Dandala told Zuma: "We accept that the people have spoken. We assure you that our role in Parliament will be constructive."

PAC president and the party's only MP Letlapa Mphahlele said they would support the ANC if it transformed the country "in favour of indigenous Africanpeople" but warned that "the PAC will brook no corruption".

ID leader Patricia de Lille said her party would continue to be vigilant in monitoring the ANC's performance.

Azapo's Mosibudi Mangena said the grinding poverty Zuma saw during campaigning must have made his hair stand on end, "wherever his hair was".

"We must recapture the lost ground of the past few years when service delivery took a back seat. The population is becoming restless. It requires the undivided attention of Parliament and the new executive," said UDM leader Bantu Holomisa.

Freedom Front leader Pieter Mulder said South Africa, which had seen four presidents since 1994, was much better off than Zimbabwe "where they have had the same president for 29 years".

ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe said Zuma would need "God's guidance" to find solutions to poverty and service delivery.

IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi left the House without congratulating Zuma, citing "urgent business" at home.

And the Minority Front used the opportunity to lobby for its leader Amichand Rajbansi to be reappointed MEC for sports and recreation in KwaZulu-Natal.

"The ANC shouldn't forget its friends," the MF said, to the sound of laughter from the rest of Parliament.