25 May 2019

South Africa: Ramaphosa Shakes Off Zuma's Spectre, Sets the Tone for a Constitutionalist Presidency

Photo: South African Government
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the inauguration.

Many of the things President Cyril Ramaphosa said at his official inauguration as South Africa's fifth democratic president weren't new. South Africans heard much of it a decade before, when the man most conspicuous in his absence at Ramaphosa's event, made promises of his own to uphold the Constitution and strengthen the institutions of democracy. But so much has changed.

There is nothing dignified about the architecture of the Loftus Versfeld rugby stadium. It contains a lot of concrete, there is green grass on the pitch, and the media room is designed to induce claustrophobia and beer-and-biltong consumption. This is the kind of place where, on the stands, fans belt out the last part of the National Anthem, containing verses of Die Stem, before a game, while Nkosi Sikilel'iAfrika gets fudged over. It's an unlikely place for a presidential inauguration in this 25-year-old democratic South Africa.

Yet the Presidency shunned the dignified, intimate, and scenic Union Buildings, and picked the home of the Blue Bulls months in advance, ostensibly to allow for more public attendance and participation. At Loftus there's more space for dignitaries and VIP guests, as well as the ordinary people, who have previously sat on the lawns...

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