Zuma inauguration: Round Two starts now

By IAfrica
In South Africa
May 24th, 2014
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Judging by the standing ovation Zuma received, the 4,500-odd guests believed him as he repeated the oath of office he first swore in 2009. Among them were pretty much all of the country’s great, good and powerful, as well as an impressive selection of African dignitaries.

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng administered the president’s oath of office, which Zuma – dressed in a typical dark suit and flanked by his first wife, Sizakele Khumalo Zuma – repeated clearly and confidently. Then Zuma stood to receive a 21-gun salute; rather unnervingly, the booming cannons (firing blanks, fortunately) were aimed directly at the good burghers of central Pretoria.

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Photo: The brass band at the Union Buildings. (Greg Nicolson)

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Photo: The public arrives at the Union Buildings for the 2014 Presidential Inauguration. (GCIS)

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Photo: Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and his wife Gugu Mtshali (GCIS)

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Photo: Former President Thabo Mbeki and his wife Zanele (GCIS)

This was followed by an aerial display from the South African Air Force, which showcased its helicopters, cargo planes and fighter jets in a series of fly-overs. Particularly impressive were the Gripens, of Arms Deal fame, which streaked overhead faster than the speed of sound. The sonic boom echoed around Pretoria’s hills.

In the first speech of his second term, Zuma told the crowd that he accepted “with great humility” the responsibility of leading the country again. He acknowledged, however, that despite the progress made during the first 20 years of democracy, there is still plenty of room for improvement for his new administration.

“However our work is not yet completed,” he said. “While the lives of millions of people have improved, poverty, inequality and unemployment still persists.”

There were three key themes to Zuma’s speech, which was one of the best he’s delivered in recent months (it helped that he did not for once look like he wished he was somewhere else).

The first was the promise of “radical economic transformation”, which he promised would central to his policies over the next five years. “As the National Development Plan outlines, the structure of the economy will be transformed through industrialisation, broad-based black economic empowerment and through strengthening and expanding the role of the state in the economy. Economic transformation will take centre-stage during this new term of government as we put the economy on an inclusive growth path. State owned enterprises and development finance institutions will become engines of development, complementing the State in promoting inclusive economic growth”

The second was a commitment to reforming the civil service. “Key targets in this regard will be to eradicate corruption and inefficiency in the public service. We will promote productivity within the public service and ensure much tighter accountability, with firm consequences where there is a failure to deliver services to our people. To enable us to achieve these key objectives, the performance of the state will need to improve,” Zuma said.

Finally, Zuma emphasized that importance of nation-building – and stressed his goal was to create a South Africa in which everyone was welcome. “Government will promote nation building programmes to rebuild the soul of our nation. We will need the backing of a united and cohesive nation behind us as we move South Africa forward. Many South Africans still bear the emotional scars arising from decades of apartheid divisions and hatred. Therefore, the national healing and reconciliation process has to continue. We will work together to promote unity, understanding and tolerance across race and colour lines, as we build a South Africa that truly belongs to all.”

Zuma’s speech was received rapturously by the audience. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that many of the assembled dignitaries – which included newly-minted MPs, MECs, mayors, provincial bigwigs, and the senior leadership of the ANC and Tripartite Alliance – are firmly in Zuma’s camp. Our thoughts go out, however, to the serving cabinet members who will find out later on Saturday (or early on Sunday) whether they still have a position in government.
There was a strong turnout from African heads of state and government, who arrived one by one shortly before Zuma made his entry. The biggest cheers went to Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (Comrade Bob remains enormously popular in this crowd). Notably absent were any presidents or royalty from outside Africa.

One president who should perhaps have stayed at home was Somalia’s Hasan Sheikh Mohamud. During the inauguration ceremony, news broke that Al Shabaab gunmen had stormed the Somali parliament building in Mogadishu. It was unclear if President Mohamud was aware of the development.

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Photo: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace (GCIS)

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Photo: Julius Malema arrived in a black suit. (Greg Nicolson)

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Photo: Airbus flyby attracted gasps of appreciation. (GCIS)

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Photo: Canons fire during the presidential inauguration. (Greg Nicolson)

At the ceremony’s conclusion, Zuma made his way to the South Lawns of the Union Building where 18,000 people – the “ordinary people”, as one aide described them – had gathered to watch on big screens. They had been entertained beforehand by a few high-profile acts including Selaelo Selota, Rebecca Malope and Mafikizolo. Zuma addressed them briefly, before heading off to the Presidential Banquet – and another five years in the hot seat. DM

Photo: South African President Jacob Zuma takes oath during his inauguration ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, 24 May 2014. Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled the country since the end of apartheid 20 years ago, won the 07 May elections with about 62.15 per cent of the vote. EPA/SIPHIWE SIBEKO / POOL


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