ANC leader Jacob Zuma was sworn in as South Africa's fourth president since the end of the apartheid era, in a glitzy ceremony Saturday that was be attended by heads of state, supporters and Zuma's three wives.
AFP - Jacob Zuma was sworn in as South Africa's fourth democratic president on Saturday at a glitzy inauguration attended by heads of state, a king, and tens of thousands of supporters.
Accompanied by his three wives, the controversial Zuma will take the oath of office at the seat of government, the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where some 30,000 onlookers are expected to gather on the lawns to witness the pomp and ceremony.
The 67-year-old was elected president by parliament, after his African National Congress (ANC) swept general elections two weeks ago, despite frustrations at poor public services after 15 years as the ruling party.
A lavish lunch, air force displays and entertainment will woo nearly 30 heads of state and 5,000 invited guests on the day.
The ceremony's budget is reported at 75 million rands (8.9 million dollars, 6.6 million euros), excluding the cost of security. But Zuma has vowed it is straight to work for him and the cabinet he will unveil on Sunday.
His anti-poverty campaign and pledges for rapid improvements to education, unemployment and crime received popular support and he has promised to work quickly to boost the nation's limping public services while bolstering the economy.
"It is my fervent hope that our public servants heard our campaign message and understand that it shall not be business as usual," he told parliament, shortly after lawmakers named him the new president.
"We expect hard work and utmost dedication," he said.
Speculation has been rife over who he will appoint to his cabinet, after his predecessor Thabo Mbeki was criticised for keeping on lacklustre ministers.
He will also have to be more inclusive of his leftist backers who supported him throughout his eight-year corruption trial, but has warned that posts will not necessarily be kept for friends.
Portfolios being closely watched include finance, with the popular Trevor Manuel said to be unlikely to return; health, a one-time fiasco of AIDS denialism, only recently revived under Barbara Hogan; and education, which is likely to be split in two.
A polygamist with 19 children and a sketchy history with the courts, Zuma embraces his Zulu tradition with a passion that has proved unnerving to some at home and abroad.
He has been billed as the ultimate come-back kid after fighting a political duel which resulted in Mbeki stepping down and having corruption charges dropped just weeks before the elections.
The inauguration has already drawn complaints from activists over high-profile visitors from countries with dictatorial or scandal-plagued governments.
These include officials from North Korea, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and King Mswati III of Swaziland, Africa's last absolute monarch.
Major western countries are sending lower-ranking officials, including Britain's junior foreign minister Mark Malloch Brown, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and French secretary of state for human rights Rama Yade.
South Africa's first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela has been invited but has yet to confirm if he will attend while outspoken Zuma critic Archbishop Desmond Tutu is out of the country and will not be present.
Date created : 2009-05-09