Cyril Ramaphosa, the newly-elected South African president, has vowed to fight corruption, tackle unemployment and revive the economy as he outlined his vision for the country in his first State of the Nation address.
“A new dawn is upon us and a wonderful dawn has arrived,” he said on Friday, a day after his swearing in ceremony.
Members of parliament from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Thursday elected the party’s leader as new president following the resignation of scandal-tainted Jacob Zuma.
Ramaphosa thanked his predecessor for “the manner in which he approached” the “very difficult and sensitive process” of the political transition, with some MPs booing when Zuma’s name was mentioned.
Zuma’s resignation in a televised address on Wednesday followed weeks of intense public pressure to step down amid long-standing corruption allegations.
In his speech to the Cape Town-based parliament, Ramaphosa urged members to “put all the negativity that has dogged our country behind us”.
He said he was “determined to build a society defined by decency and integrity that does not tolerate the plunder of public resources nor the theft by corporate criminals of the hard-earned savings of ordinary people”.
Poverty alleviation, the reduction of inequality and the restoration of South Africa’s economy were the central themes of Ramaphosa’s speech.
Calling youth unemployment the country’s “most grave and most pressing challenge”, he announced measures to tackle the issue, including the creation of one million paid internships within companies, as well as the establishment of a youth working group.
Unemployment of 15 to 34-year-olds in South Africa stood at 38.6 percent in the third quarter of 2017.
Ramaphosa also promised to take “tough decisions” on closing a fiscal gap, as well introduce measures to create new industrial hubs and increase infrastructure investments.
Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from Cape Town, said Ramaphosa’s earlier stated target of growing the South African economy by five percent by 2023 was a “tall order”.
“The economy has really suffered in the past three years,” she said.
Commenting on the MPs’ jeers at the mention of Zuma’s name, Miller said that “many people will criticise parliament for that booing”.
“This is a parliament that has an ANC majority – a majority that protected Zuma for many years.”