Zuma steps down ahead of vote of no confidence
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.
Jacob Zuma addresses the media during his resignation speech. Above, a protester calling for him to go