#Mandela100 heralds new beginning for SA, says hopeful Ramaphosa

Cape Town - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says Nelson Mandela's centenary marks a new beginning for South Africa.

He was addressing a crowd at the Grand Parade in Cape Town on Sunday, where the ANC held a rally to mark Nelson Mandela’s centenary.

“This year we are called upon, all of us, to look at where we have come from and to look at our weaknesses, to look at the challenges we face,” Ramaphosa said. “As we emerge from a period of difficulty, a period of disunity and discord, this Nelson Mandela centenary year offers us what I would call, a new beginning.”

Ramaphosa also said that the top leadership of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), which is meeting on Monday, will finalise the issue of transferring power from President Jacob Zuma to a new administration.

"We should handle these discussions that are currently under way with care and purpose, ensuring that we put the interests of South Africans first," he said. 

“Our people want this matter finalised. The National Executive Committee will be doing precisely that. We know you want closure on this matter.”

The NEC meeting in the Pretoria, the capital, was convened after Zuma defied calls by the party’s top leadership to step down, according to four people familiar with the matter.

The decision follows talks between the ANC’s top six officials and Zuma on Saturday night to discuss the transition of power, said the people, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. ANC spokesman Pule Mabe confirmed the NEC meeting, while declining to comment further.

Zuma, who has been implicated in a succession of scandals, was succeeded as leader of the ANC by his deputy Ramphosa in December and has faced mounting pressure to resign. His second term is due to end around the middle of 2019 when South Africa holds general elections.

The ANC is trying to wrap up a deal for Zuma to resign so Ramaphosa can restore investor confidence and public support for the ANC as it gears up for the vote.

Ramaphosa, a 65-year-old lawyer and one of the richest black South Africans, has pledged to revive the flagging economy and clamp down on the corruption that Zuma’s critics say have become synonymous with his rule.

“This year we are called upon, all of us, to look at where we have come from and to look at our weaknesses, to look at the challenges we face,” Ramaphosa said.

“As we emerge from a period of difficulty, a period of disunity and discord, this Nelson Mandela centenary year offers us what I would call, a new beginning.”

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