Cyril Ramaphosa elected President

"I am truly humbled to be given this great privilege to serve our people"

The election of Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa

Cape Town – At 13:30, half an hour before the National Assembly is scheduled to elect a new president, only one of the Chamber's 400 seats is occupied.

The solitary figure belongs to Derek Hanekom – the first ANC NEC member to propose a motion that now former president Jacob Zuma be removed, the former tourism minister booted out of Cabinet with his confidant, Pravin Gordhan, in a dramatic, late-night Cabinet reshuffle last March, the vocal Zuma and Guptas critic, and the equally vocal supporter of newly-elected president, Cyril Ramaphosa.

As the MPs enter in dribs and drabs, Ramaphosa's main challenger for the ANC presidency at its conference in December, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, walks in.

She passes Hanekom, who is staring at his cellphone. But, from the press gallery, there isn't a visible nod of recognition between them.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu walks over to his DA counterpart, John Steenhuisen, and DA MP's Anchen Dreyer and Dean Macpherson, for what seems like a friendly exchange.

Shortly before 14:00 most of the seats are filled, including the seat reserved for the deputy president, where a somewhat tired looking acting president Cyril Ramaphosa takes his seat. The ANC chief whip has a quick chat with him, as well as some other ANC members.

With most of the seats taken, there is a gap where the EFF MPs sit. As some ANC backbenchers start singing, the EFF marches in, also singing.

Speaker Baleka Mbete asks the House to quiet down a few times.

Among those whose seats remain empty, are Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi and Social Services Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

There is a loud cheer, mostly from the opposition benches, when Mbete announces that she has received Jacob Zuma's resignation letter.

She says there is only one item on the agenda – the election of a new president.

As she tries to get proceedings underway, a now familiar scene plays itself out: EFF MPs raising points of order, Mbete saying she can't entertain them, EFF MPs getting angry and Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu yelling and pointing at them.

"Ramaphosa recognised you long ago!" EFF leader Julius Malema growls to her during one of their exchanges.

While the EFF argues that his election as president would be illegitimate, Ramaphosa sits serenely with a slight smile.

The EFF charges out of the House amid cheers from the ANC benches, and the proceedings get underway, with Mbete relinquishing her seat to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to preside over the election.

ANC MP Patrick Maesela nominates Ramaphosa, with an endorsement. The nomination is seconded by ANC MP Joan Fubbs. While she delivers an endorsement, calling Ramaphosa a "revolutionary cadre" DA MPs make noises, suggesting that she is sucking up to Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa accepts the nomination, which is greeted with enthusiastic cheers from the ANC MPs.

Cope leader Mosuioa Lekota objects to the nomination, but since there are no other nominations, there is no voting process and Mogoeng declares Ramaphosa the president-elect.

All MPs are on their feet, as is the public gallery, where many a T-shirt emblazoned with the word "Siyavuma" - Ramaphosa's campaign slogan for the ANC conference.

Mogoeng jokes that he is not used to people singing in his usual job.

"Uhhhhhh," groan DA MPs, while speaker Baleka Mbete commends former president Jacob Zuma. The ANC applauds politely.

Leaders from each party are then allowed a few words, with DA leader and official leader of the opposition Mmusi Maimane getting the first bite of the cherry.

He congratulates Ramaphosa on his election as state President and says the DA will support him if he acts in the interests of the people.

"We don't have a Jacob Zuma problem, we have an ANC problem," he said, a phrase he has used a lot lately.

As he criticises the ANC for not acting earlier against Zuma, a few groans emerge from the ANC benches.

"Mr Cyril Ramaphosa I wish you all the best, but I will see you in 2019 on the ballot boxes," he adds.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh apologises that his party's leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi couldn't attend the event as his flight had been rescheduled.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa starts his speech in isiXhosa, saying he used a shibobo (the football term for passing a ball through an opponent's legs, also called a nutmeg) and that Ramaphosa is sitting on the wrong seat, much to Ramaphosa's amusement.

"Hallelujah!" say some ANC backbenchers when ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe remarks that Ramaphosa will need wisdom from God.

FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald says there is a perception that South Africa now has a better president than it did before.

"But it's not difficult to be better than Jacob Zuma," he adds. Ramaphosa laughs.

Every party's speaker congratulates Ramaphosa, and the golden thread through their speeches is that Ramaphosa should clamp down on corruption and bring unity.

While the MPs speak, Ramaphosa scribbles notes.

Otherwise engaged, a few benches from him, sits Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, intently staring at his tablet on which brightly coloured blocks appeared and explode. Even while Mthembu speaks, Gigaba occupies himself with this. But when Ramaphosa stands up to speak, Gigaba flips the tablet's cover closed.

"I am truly humbled to be given this great privilege to serve our people," Ramaphosa says.

Ramaphosa addresses each of the MPs who spoke, without derision, without mocking their accents, without playing a victim.

To Maimane he says he won't have to wait to 2019 to see him at the ballot box, he will be seen regularly in Parliament.

He says Holomisa stills calls him SG, and he still calls Holomisa general, from the time they served in the ANC together. He adds he and Meshoe belonged to the same church group when they were students.

"I will do this as a servant of our people," he says, while Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor nods intently.

When he adds that he hopes that Parliament's debates would not descend into screaming matches, firebrand Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane claps her hands.

After Ramaphosa concludes and Mbete adjourns the House, he is swamped by opposition MPs to congratulate him, with Maimane one of the first to hug him and Steenhuisen handing him a cigar.

A smiling Liezl van der Merwe of the IFP throws her fist in the air as she approaches Ramaphosa.

He spends a bit more time with Hanekom than with the other well-wishers. While they speak, Economic Development Ebrahim Patel takes a photo of them with his cellphone.

Finally, Ramaphosa is left alone on the National Assembly Chamber's floor with Mthembu, House chairperson Cedric Frolick and ANC MP Gerhard Koornhof by his side.

Ramaphosa looks up at the press gallery with a broad smile and waves.