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EAST LONDON: South Africa wants to attract foreign investors to help it kick-start economic growth and will crack down on corruption, the new leader of the ruling African National Congress said on Saturday.

Cyril Ramaphosa, who narrowly won the race to succeed President Jacob Zuma as ANC leader last month, also used a speech to mark 106 years since the founding of Africa’s oldest liberation movement to call for party unity after a bitter leadership contest.

South Africa’s economy has slowed to a near-standstill over Zuma’s two presidential terms, as allegations of influence-peddling in government and mismanagement of state-owned enterprises have dented consumer and business confidence.

But Ramaphosa’s election win has injected a sense of optimism that the ANC, which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994, could win back the trust of voters and investors disillusioned with Zuma’s rule.

Ramaphosa, 65, a former trade union leader and one of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, pledged during his campaign for ANC leader to address record unemployment and a sluggish economy.

“South Africa is open for investment,” he told tens of thousands of cheering ANC members in a stadium in the Eastern Cape province on Saturday. Through foreign investment “we can grow our economy, create jobs, end poverty,” he said.

“We must have an economy that offers policy certainty and addresses areas that inhibit investment, growth as well as social inclusion.”

Ramaphosa reassured investors that the role, mandate and independence of the central bank would be maintained while plans for free higher education for the poor would be implemented gradually so as to safeguard public finances.

The ANC needs to follow the example of liberation hero Nelson Mandela to unite the country and combat the racial inequalities that persist to this day, he added.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2018