Benin 0-2 South Africa
Nomvete celebrates his opening goal
Siyabonga Nomvete went from villain to hero as he secured a vital victory for South Africa over battling Benin.
Nomvete missed a first-half penalty as he woefully rolled his kick wide after Damien Chrysostome was harshly ruled to have fouled Sibusiso Zuma.
But the striker made amends with a close-range header from John Moshoeu's excellent free-kick on 58 minutes.
And Nomvete made the game safe with a neat touch and powerful finish 14 minutes from time.
Highlighted by his penalty miss, Nomvete's finishing had been poor in the first half.
After 31 minutes, the striker who plays for Italian club Udinese ballooned the ball over from just three yards out after Benin keeper Rachad Chitou got down well to his right to parry Jacob Lekgetho's fierce long-range drive.
Six minutes later, Nomvete drove against the crossbar from the edge of the six yard box and when the ball fell invitingly back to him, he could only head the return meekly into the hands of Chitou.
Yet the forward endeared himself to Bafana Bafana fans when he struck the opening goal which came against the run of play as Benin, who were making their Cup of Nations debut, exerted a spell of considerable pressure on the South African defence.
Three minutes into the second half, striker Muri Ogunbiyi's neat header gave the impressive Moussa Latoundji room in the box but the Benin captain cracked his left-shot against the bar from close range.
A couple of minutes later, midfielder Oketola played a neat one-two before flashing a volley narrowly wide of South African goalkeeper Emile Baron's right-hand post.
Earlier in the first half, Benin thought they should have been awarded a penalty when forward Alain Gaspoz claimed that Thabang Molefe had stopped a goal-bound effort with his arm.
The result comes as a major confidence boost for beleaguered South Africa, who fired their coach Ephraim 'Shakes' Mashaba on the eve of their departure for the tournament and replaced him with April 'Styles' Phumo.
The 2-0 win puts South Africa top of Group D on goal difference ahead of Morocco, who beat Nigeria 1-0 in Monastir.
South Africa: 16-Emile Baron; 2-Thabang Molefe (17-Neil Winstanley 81), 3-Jacob Lekgetho, 4-Aaron Mokoena, 7-Mbulelo Mabizela, 13-Benson Mhlongo, 19-John Moshoeu, 18-Delron Buckley, 15-Sibusiso Zuma, 14-Siyabonga Nomvete, 21-Patrick Mayo
Benin: 1-Rachad Chitou; 5-Damien Chrysostome, 8-Tony Toklomety, 15-Anicet Adjamonsi, 18-Seidath Tchomogo, 2-Moussa Latoundji, 6-Jonas Oketola, 7-Roumauld Bocco, 19-Jocelyn Ahoueya, 11-Muri Ogunbiyi (20-Wassiou Oladikpikpo 63), 14-Alain Gaspoz (22-Kabirou Moussoro 79)
Referee: Komlan Coulibaly (Mali)