Bowing to reality, Zuma steps down from presidency
President JOHANNESBURG —
Jacob Zuma of South Africa, a master tactician who survived a string of scandals and harsh court judgments during his nearly nine-year presidency, agreed Wednesday to step down, repudiated by the governing Afri- can National Congress Party, cornered by opposition par- ties and abandoned by millions of voters.
In an address to the nation Wednesday night, Zuma said that he was resigning even though he disagreed with the party’s decision order- ing him to do so.
“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as the president of the Republic with immediate effect, even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organization, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC,” he said at the end of a lengthy address on television.
Only hours earlier he had sounded defiant and aggrieved during a live interview with the state broadcaster SABC, after party leaders had threatened to remove him through a no-confidence vote in Parliament today. He had indicated strongly that he would not resign, saying the party’s effort to pull him from office was “unfair,” that he was being “victimized,” and that he had done nothing wrong.
The deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa — whose election as ANC leader in December set off a power struggle with Zuma — imme- diately became acting pres- ident.
Today, Ramaphosa is almost certain to be cho- sen by Parliament to become the nation’s fifth president since the end of apartheid in 1994; all have been members of the ANC.
The party’s decision was a humiliating end for Zuma, a charismatic anti-apartheid hero who was imprisoned on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela and was once the ANC’s intelligence chief.
Initially he inspired hope in millions of South Africans, especially the poorest. But, tainted by numerous accusations of misconduct, he came to symbolize the corruption that flourished during his time in office.
Influence-peddling in his administration was so widespread, according to the nation’s former public protector, that it became a form of state capture in which Zuma’s business partners or friends influenced government decisions in their personal interest.
Now, his departure as president leaves South Africa with a disillusioned electorate, a weakened economy and a tarnished image in the rest of Africa.
The resignation was the culmination of a long internal fight, pitting Zuma’s supporters against an ascendant faction led by Ramaphosa, who pushed the president to step down before the end of his full term in mid-2019.
The balance finally tipped against Zuma when t he majority of party leaders concluded that the ANC’s interests, and their own, would be better served under a new head of state.
Jacob Zuma has been South Africa’s president for 9 years.