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South Africa inaugurates president for 2nd term

South African President Jacob Zuma takes his oath of office during his inauguration ceremony at the Union Buildings in Pretoria May 24, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, was inaugurated for a second term 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 the South African capital of Pretoria. It was the same place where Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who became South Africa's first black president, 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 center-stage 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 anti-apartheid 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 $20 million in state spending on his private home.

Those attending the inauguration included President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, 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.

 

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