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New South Africa president Jacob Zuma says his government will try to improve the lives of all citizens. (Photo: Los Angeles Times)
New President of South Africa Jacob Zuma says his government will try to improve the lives of all citizens. (Photo: Los Angeles Times)

TAIPEI, Taiwan:- South Africa’s new president Jacob Zuma, during his inauguration on Saturday, recognized the contributions of his predecessors and said the “dreams and hopes of all the people of our country must be fulfilled”.

“There is no place for complacency, no place for cynicism, no place for excuses,” he said in his inaugural address, which had some cordial words for his archrival, former president Thabo Mbeki.

Speaking in Pretoria, South Africa’s executive capital, Zuma said 11.6 million South Africans voted for his African National Congress (ANC). He said he was committing himself to serve the nation with “dedication, commitment, discipline, integrity, hard work and passion”.

He said the ANC was being called upon to implement its manifesto, adding, “Everything we do must contribute in a direct and meaningful way to the improvement of the lives of our people.”

He said his administration would not rest as long as there were South African affected by death from preventable disease, poverty, gender inequality, destitution, exploitation or abuse, illiteracy, and unemployment.

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While he said there was a lot to be done, Zuma spoke of the “difficult economic times” even as he said the “foundations of our economy are strong and we will need to continue to build on them”.

He said nationals needed to work even harder and hold themselves to “the highest standards of service, probity and integrity.”

“Together we must build a society that prizes excellence and rewards effort, which shuns laziness and incompetence.

“We must build a society that draws on the capabilities, energy and promise of all its people.”

He said while citizens of the rainbow nation are of “vastly different experiences, of divergent interests, with widely different views” they shared “a common desire for a better life, and to live in peace and harmony”.

The new leader also said there was a common conviction to never return to the time of division and strive, a reference to apartheid which ended 15 years ago.

“From this common purpose we must forge a partnership for reconstruction, development and progress. “In this partnership there is a place for all South Africans, black and white.”

South African celebrated another ANC victory in April, 4 years after it first came to power. (Photo: New York Times)
South African celebrated another ANC victory in April, 14 years after it first came to power. (Photo: New York Times)

Zuma said South Africa needed a dynamic partnership that was enriched by democratic debate, valued diverse views and accommodated dissent.

The country needed “to make real the fundamental right of all South Africans to freely express themselves, to protest, to organise, and to practice their faith,” he said.

He said the nation must defend the freedom of the media, as the media seek to promote within itself a greater diversity of voices and perspectives.

South Africa, Zuma said, would “continue to use multilateral and bilateral forums and relations to take forward the goals of eradicating global poverty, strengthening peace and security and to promote democracy”.

He promised that South Africa will deliver a world class 2010 FIFA World Cup that will promote friendship and cooperation

“Let us build a nation that remains forever mindful of its history, of those who have sacrificed so much, and the many who put down their lives so we can be here today,” he said.

Zuma, who was jailed for ten years during the struggle against apartheid, was fired as deputy president in 2005 by former president Thabo Mbeki.

He was dogged by corruption charges for eight years. Prosecutors dropped the charges in early April, weeks before South African went to the polls and gave the ANC 65.9 percent of the votes cast.

Zuma was implicated in an arms deal bribery scandal and prosecutors said while they had a strong case it had been manipulated for political reasons. The criminal charges would never be revived, they said.

In 2006, Zuma was acquitted of raping an HIV-positive family friend. He said the encounter was consensual. He was ridiculed for his testimony during the trial that he believed showering after the encounter would protect him from AIDS, the Washington Post reported in April.

Zuma, in his speech, said that Mbeki took South Africa forward “as a true statesman”, made a remarkable contribution towards strengthening its democracy, and laid a firm foundation for economic growth and development.

The Los Angeles Times reported analyst Adam Habib as saying Zuma’s was the greatest political comeback ever.

“In three years, he choreographed the most phenomenal comeback of anyone, anywhere in the world,” Habib said on independent ETV, the publication reported.

Former preisdent Nelson Mandela, who was also imprisoned under the apratheid system, also attended the inauguration ceremony.

A thunderstorm which preceded the official inauguration forced some dignitaries from their seats. The precipitation was hailed as blessings in traditional Zulu culture, Zuma’s ethnic group.

See also: ‘New style of apartheid’ in South Africa