South African President Jacob Zuma was inaugurated for a second term on Saturday in a ceremony marked by dance, prayer, a 21-gun salute and air force flyovers.
Leaders from Nigeria, Zimbabwe and other African countries attended the event at the Union Buildings, a government complex in Pretoria. It was the same place where former South African president Nelson Mandela took the oath of office 20 years ago in a ceremony officially ending white minority rule.
On May 7, the ruling African National Congress won elections, continuing its political dominance since the end of the apartheid system that it had fought for decades. The party retains a comfortable majority, but opposition parties have capitalized with some success on allegations of official corruption and mismanagement. National elections are held every five years.
In an inauguration speech, Zuma said South Africa was “a much better place to live in now than before 1994,” but that poverty, unemployment and other problems persisted despite many improvements.
“Economic transformation will take centerstage during this new term of government as we put the economy on an inclusive growth path,” Zuma said.
He promised to promote “broad-based black economic empowerment” to address government concerns that much of the economy remains in the hands of South Africa’s white minority.
This month’s elections saw the rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a new opposition party that wants to redistribute national resources to the poor.
Zuma, a former antiapartheid activist, was jailed for 10 years on Robben Island, the same prison where Mandela was held for many years. As president, Zuma has been hit by criticism over a scandal surrounding more than US$20 million in state spending on his private home.
Those attending the inauguration included Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who was recently in Singapore for medical treatment, and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, whose government, backed by international assistance, is trying to free nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Islamic militants.