ANC president Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa during the 54th ANC elective conference taking place at Nesrac, December 16 2017. Picture: MASI LOSI
ANC president Jacob Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa during the 54th ANC elective conference taking place at Nesrac, December 16 2017. Picture: MASI LOSI

Cyril Ramaphosa pledged a crackdown on corruption and called for unity in his first speech as the leader of the ANC.

"Corruption has to come to a stop and it must happen with immediate effect," Ramaphosa said in the closing address to the ANC’s national elective conference in the early hours of Thursday morning. "We must confront the reality that critical institutions of our state have been targeted by individuals and families."

Ramaphosa did not directly link President Jacob Zuma to wrongdoing his the speech, and instead thanked him for his service to the ANC. Zuma had backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, his former wife and mother of four of his more than 20 children, to succeed him.

The ANC’s new leader reiterated the party’s resolutions to implement radical economic transformation to give the black majority a bigger stake in the economy and provide free tertiary education. He affirmed the party’s decision to seize land without compensation to speed up land reform, but said it would only be done in a responsible manner that did not harm the economy, agricultural production or food security.

Listen to Cyril Ramaphosa's full speech here: 

Ramaphosa said the public wanted the "leadership to be united".

"Speculation was rife that the 54th conference of the ANC would either not take place or collapse on the very first day," Ramaphosa said, referring to the bitter legal battles over which members would be permitted to vote. "We are still here standing 106 years later — we are alive, we are leading and we are here to stay."

Ramaphosa narrowly won the leadership vote on Monday after an acrimonious race that exposed rifts within the one-time liberation organisation between his camp and that of Dlamini-Zuma.

"I wish to pay tribute to comrade Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who contested the position of president, for the manner in which she demonstrated commitment to our movement," Ramaphosa said.

"President Zuma — one has been accustomed to you closing conferences of the ANC … and I feel like I’m walking in your shoes tonight," said Ramaphosa. "One has to get used to this."

"The people of SA want action, they do not want words," Ramaphosa said to a sea of delegates from across the nation dressed in the official ANC colours of yellow, green and black.

"In recent times, we have seen the ANC at its worst. We have seen an organisation divided against itself," he said, adding that people were tired of the party serving "vested interests".

He also gave a tepid endorsement of the conference’s resolution to press ahead with a controversial policy of land redistribution without compensation in favour of landless and poor South Africans.

"This conference has resolved that expropriation of land without compensation should be amongst the mechanisms available to government to give effect to land reform and redistribution," he said to applause.

"It has also been resolved that we ensure we do not undermine the agricultural production or the economy — that is what is important."

Bloomberg, AFP

The ANC's president, Cyril Ramaphosa, closed the party's 54th national conference on Wednesday, at Nasrec.

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