Zuma steps down ahead of vote of no con­fi­dence

The Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - Ja­son Burke

Ja­cob Zuma, the pres­i­dent of South Africa, dra­mat­i­cally re­signed last night after days of de­fy­ing or­ders from the rul­ing African Na­tional Congress to leave of­fice and on the eve of a no-con­fi­dence vote in par­lia­ment.

In a tele­vised ad­dress to the na­tion, the 75-year-old said he was a dis­ci­plined mem­ber of the ANC to which he had ded­i­cated his life.

In a 30-minute farewell ad­dress to the na­tion, Zuma said he dis­agreed with the way the ANC had pushed him to­wards an early exit after the elec­tion of Cyril Ramaphosa as party pres­i­dent in De­cem­ber, but would ac­cept its or­ders.

“I have there­fore come to the de­ci­sion to re­sign as pres­i­dent of the repub­lic with im­me­di­ate ef­fect,” Zuma said.

“Even though I dis­agree with the de­ci­sion of the lead­er­ship of my or­gan­i­sa­tion, I have al­ways been a dis­ci­plined mem­ber of the ANC,” he said.

The res­ig­na­tion ended an ex­tra­or­di­nary day in South African pol­i­tics which had be­gun with a dawn raid on a busi­ness

fam­ily at the cen­tre of the re­cent cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions lev­elled at Zuma.

At noon, ANC of­fi­cials an­nounced they would vote for an op­po­si­tion party’s no-con­fi­dence mo­tion in par­lia­ment, which was sched­uled to take place to­day. Late in the af­ter­noon, Zuma gave an an­gry and ram­bling TV interview to jus­tify his re­fusal to obey his own party’s or­der to step down.

His speech last night was more con­fi­dent and warm. The pres­i­dent ex­pressed his grat­i­tude to the ANC and South Africans for the priv­i­lege of serv­ing them at the “pin­na­cle” of pub­lic life.

Zuma’s res­ig­na­tion leaves the path clear for deputy pres­i­dent, Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over the lead­er­ship of the ANC in De­cem­ber, to be elected by par­lia­ment to the high­est of­fice by par­lia­ment. The for­mer an­ti­a­partheid ac­tivist, who has led the ANC since 2007 and been South Africa’s pres­i­dent since 2009, was due to leave power next year.

Zuma’s ten­ure has been marred by eco­nomic de­cline and mul­ti­ple charges of graft, un­der­min­ing the im­age and le­git­i­macy of the party that led South Africans to free­dom in 1994.

The chaotic po­lit­i­cal cri­sis of re­cent days has fur­ther dam­aged the ANC, and an­gered many South Africans who are im­pa­tient with the party’s opaque in­ter­nal pro­ce­dures that of­ten de­ter­mine who ex­er­cises power.

Ramaphosa won a bit­terly fought in­ter­nal elec­tion in De­cem­ber and is seen as the stan­dard bearer of the party’s re­formist wing. Party strate­gists wanted Zuma side­lined quickly to al­low the ANC to re­group be­fore cam­paign­ing starts for elec­tions in 2019.

The party suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant set­backs at mu­nic­i­pal polls in 2016 and could be forced into a coali­tion gov­ern­ment at the na­tional level, ex­perts say.

As pres­i­dent, Ramaphosa will have to bal­ance the need to re­as­sure for­eign in­vestors and lo­cal busi­nesses against the in­tense pop­u­lar de­mand for dra­matic mea­sures to ad­dress South Africa’s deep prob­lems.

The 65-year-old for­mer trade union leader has said South Africa is com­ing out of a “pe­riod of un­cer­tainty, a pe­riod of dark­ness, and get­ting into a new phase”.

Richard Cal­land, an ex­pert in South African pol­i­tics at the Univer­sity of Cape Town, said the de­par­ture of Zuma from of­fice would give Ramaphosa “the chance to re­build gov­ern­ment and the party at the same time”.

In re­cent days, the rand has strength­ened and many an­a­lysts have re­vised up­wards their pre­dic­tions of South Africa’s eco­nomic growth.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day an elite South African po­lice team raided the lux­u­ri­ous home of a fam­ily of con­tro­ver­sial busi­ness­men ac­cused of im­proper deal­ings with the 75-year-old pres­i­dent.

The raid on the prop­erty of the wealthy Gupta fam­ily in Jo­han­nes­burg was seen as a sign that Ramaphosa will move swiftly against those as­so­ci­ated with the cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions and mis­man­age­ment that have char­ac­terised Zuma’s nine years in power.

It also showed how much the pres­i­dent’s grip on power waned. A raid against the Gup­tas would have been al­most in­con­ceiv­able just months ago.

Hang­wani Mu­laudzi, a spokesman for the po­lice, said the op­er­a­tion was part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of in­flu­ence-ped­dling in gov­ern­ment and the mis­use of pub­lic funds.

“We’re view­ing this in­ves­ti­ga­tion in a very se­ri­ous light. We’re not play­ing around in terms of mak­ing sure that those who are re­spon­si­ble in the so-called state cap­ture, they take re­spon­si­bil­ity for it,” Mu­laudzi said.

The term “state cap­ture” was coined by the pub­lic prose­cu­tor, a con­sti­tu­tion­ally ap­pointed in­de­pen­dent anti-cor­rup­tion watch­dog, to de­scribe how the Gup­tas have al­legedly used their friend­ship with Zuma to gain in­flu­ence. The Gupta fam­ily and Zuma deny any wrong­do­ing.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: EPA

Ja­cob Zuma ad­dresses the me­dia dur­ing his res­ig­na­tion speech. Above, a pro­tester call­ing for him to go

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