JOHANNESBURG - Just hours ahead of his maiden State Of The Nation (SONA) address, newly-elected South African president Cyril Ramaphosa is enjoying a warm reception among South African citizens.

Earlier today, images of the new president out and about, engaging with Cape Town locals, set social media abuzz.

In an exclusive interview with Business Report on Friday, South-African-born UK politician and activist Lord Peter Hain, who is currently in the country, gave his insight on a number of pertinent issues facing the country, notwithstanding the recent election of Cyril Ramaphosa as South Africa's new president.

Ramaphosa was officially sworn in as South Africa's fifth democratically elected state president on Thursday.

The National Assembly voted unanimously for his appointment as the country's next president, following former president Jacob Zuma's resignation on Wednesday.

Hain described Ramaphosa as a skilled political leader. "I'm very hopeful and enthused about Cyril's presidency because I think he's a uniquely qualified leader for this period in South African history," he said.

Hain added that Ramphosa's experience as a former trade unionist negotiator and a constitution negotiator would play to his benefit.
"He's a very successful businessman and the ANC is in his blood.

"I think South Africa is lucky to have him at this moment. The world admires him, which is why the rand is strengthening and why the markets are favourable at the moment," he said.

"The international governments respect Ramaphosa in a way that they didn't respect president Zuma."

Hain cautioned against South Africans expecting change overnight, explaining that the problems the country faced were too deep.
"I have learned that change doesn't happen quickly," he said.

"People must give him [Ramaphosa] some understanding and give him some time."

Hain defended Ramphosa's decision to wait six months for former president Zuma to go (with negotioations for his resignation reportedly having started at the beginning of the year), saying the president "played a blinder".

"The party was divided, the leadership was divided. He allowed president Zuma to hang himself, where even his most ardent backers in the NEC got so frustrated (to recall him)."

Ramaphosa is set to deliver his first SONA at 7pm in Parliament on Friday.


- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE