Jacob Zuma resigned as president of South Africa Wednesday and has been replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected in December to lead the ruling political party, the African National Congress.

Key points:

  • Ramaphosa is considered more business-friendly than Zuma and his administration can be expected to push positive immigration reforms.
  • Zuma’s resignation was not a surprise after Ramaphosa replaced him as head of the ANC in December. South Africa’s parliament took the extraordinary steps of postponing Zuma’s annual state of the nation address last week and scheduling a parliamentary vote of no confidence this week, increasing the pressure on him to resign.
  • Ramaphosa was elected by Parliament on Thursday as Zuma’s replacement.

Background: Zuma had been president of South Africa since 2009 and, under his leadership, the government adopted a number of immigration regulations in 2014 that were widely viewed as restrictive. The changes drew the opposition of business organizations, worried that the restrictions would hurt business and tourism. The government is now in the midst of revamping its immigration system again, and the Department of Home Affairs published a white paper in July that outlined upcoming immigration system overhauls. Changes called for in the white paper include the introduction of a points-based system for work permits, a new skills and education levy on employ­ers of foreign nationals and measures to root out exploita­tion of legal loopholes by economic migrants. It is not clear what impact Zuma’s resignation will have on this process, though Ramaphosa is widely considered to be the more business-friendly leader and was elected as leader of the ANC on an anticorruption platform.

BAL Analysis: While it remains to be seen what precise impact a Ramaphosa presidency will have on specific policies or proposals, BAL anticipates that he will push for business-friendly immigration reforms. BAL will continue following developments in South Africa and will alert clients to any significant changes to immigration programs.

This alert has been provided by the BAL South Africa office. For additional information, please contact

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