S. Africa’s Zuma re­signs amid scan­dal

Deputy pres­i­dent is now in charge

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - International -

JOHANNESBURG — South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma re­signed on Wed­nes­day in a tele­vised ad­dress to the na­tion, end­ing a tur­bu­lent ten­ure marred by cor­rup­tion scan­dals that sapped the pop­u­lar­ity of the rul­ing African Na­tional Congress and hurt one of Africa’s big­gest economies.

The res­ig­na­tion sig­naled an im­mi­nent end to a lead­er­ship cri­sis in South Africa and set the stage for Mr. Zuma to be re­placed by Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, who has promised a ro­bust cam­paign against cor­rup­tion but will quickly face pres­sure to pro­duce re­sults in a coun­try strug­gling with un­em­ploy­ment, eco­nomic in­equity and other prob­lems. Ahead of 2019 elec­tions, Mr. Ramaphosa also has the tough task of re­build­ing a rul­ing party whose moral stature has di­min­ished since it took power at the end of white mi­nor­ity rule in 1994.

“I have there­fore come to the de­ci­sion to re­sign as pres­i­dent of the re­pub­lic with im­me­di­ate ef­fect,” said Mr. Zuma, who added that he took the de­ci­sion even though he dis­agreed with the rul­ing party’s de­mand that he quit im­me­di­ately or face a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in the par­lia­ment on Thurs­day. Mr. Zuma, 75, had said he was will­ing to re­sign early from his sec­ond five-year term but wanted to stay in of­fice for sev­eral more months.

“Of course, I must ac­cept that if my party and my com­pa­tri­ots wish that I be re­moved from of­fice, they must ex­er­cise that right and do so in the man­ner pre­scribed by the con­sti­tu­tion,” Mr. Zuma said.

The African Na­tional Congress wel­comed the res­ig­na­tion, ex­press­ing grat­i­tude for Mr. Zuma’s “loyal ser­vice” dur­ing his nearly 10 years as pres­i­dent and en­cour­ag­ing party mem­bers to sup­port Mr. Ramaphosa, now the coun­try’s act­ing pres­i­dent. By the end of the week, Mr. Ramaphosa is likely to be elected pres­i­dent by the ANC-dom­i­nated par­lia­ment and to give a state of the na­tion ad­dress that had been post­poned dur­ing the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil.

South Africa’s big­gest op­po­si­tion party, the Demo­cratic Al­liance, said the rul­ing party must act against as­so­ciates of Mr. Zuma who are also sus­pected of wrong­do­ing and mis­man­age­ment.

“Zuma built a deep sys­tem of cor­rup­tion that has pen­e­trated ev­ery part of the govern­ment and the crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion sys­tem,” Demo­cratic Al­liance leader Mmusi Maimane said.

“Now the coun­try looks to Cyril Ramaphosa to save us from a man that he and the ANC pro­tected and sup­ported. We must never al­low this to hap­pen again,” said Mr. Maimane, who wants par­lia­ment to be dis­solved so that early elec­tions can be held.

Mr. Ramaphosa, a union leader dur­ing apartheid, was a key ne­go­tia­tor of the tran­si­tion from white mi­nor­ity rule to democ­racy in the 1990s and later be­came a wealthy busi­ness­man. He re­placed Mr. Zuma as leader of the ANC in De­cem­ber and has been con­sol­i­dat­ing his con­trol, while also rais­ing his in­ter­na­tional pro­file with a visit last month to the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos, Switzer­land.

On Wed­nes­day morn­ing, South African po­lice raided the home of prom­i­nent busi­ness as­so­ciates of Mr. Zuma who are ac­cused of be­ing at the cen­ter of cor­rup­tion scan­dals that have in­fu­ri­ated the coun­try. An elite po­lice unit en­tered the com­pound of the Gupta fam­ily, which has been ac­cused of us­ing its con­nec­tions to the pres­i­dent to in­flu­ence Cab­i­net ap­point­ments and win state con­tracts.

Sev­eral peo­ple were ar­rested dur­ing po­lice oper­a­tions, South African me­dia re­ported.

Both Mr. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrong­do­ing, though le­gal chal­lenges are loom­ing. As the Gupta-linked in­ves­ti­ga­tion pro­ceeds, Mr. Zuma also could face cor­rup­tion charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago. South Africa’s chief prose­cu­tor is ex­pected to make a de­ci­sion on whether to pros­e­cute Mr. Zuma on the old charges, which were re­in­stated last year af­ter be­ing thrown out in 2009.

In an­other scan­dal, South Africa’s top court ruled in 2016 that Mr. Zuma vi­o­lated the con­sti­tu­tion fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of multi-mil­lion-dol­lar up­grades to his pri­vate home us­ing state funds. He paid back some of the money.

Still, Mr. Zuma, a for­mer anti-apartheid ac­tivist who spent a decade at the Robben Is­land prison where Nel­son Man­dela was held, was pop­u­lar among some South Africans for his per­sonal warmth and pop­ulist poli­cies.

In 2006, while be­ing tried on charges of rap­ing an HIV-pos­i­tive fam­ily friend, Mr. Zuma was widely crit­i­cized af­ter tes­ti­fy­ing he took a shower af­ter ex­tra­mar­i­tal sex to lower the risk of AIDS. He was ac­quit­ted of rape. But dur­ing his ten­ure, he called for ear­lier and ex­panded treat­ment for HIV-pos­i­tive South Africans that helped to curb the death rate and urged his coun­try­men to get tested for HIV.

He presided over a South African tri­umph, the stag­ing of the World Cup soc­cer tour­na­ment in 2010. He was also leader dur­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing by po­lice of sev­eral dozen pro­test­ers dur­ing la­bor un­rest at a plat­inum mine in Marikana in 2012.

The for­mer pres­i­dent was de­fi­ant in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view ear­lier Wed­nes­day, say­ing he had done noth­ing wrong de­spite the ANC’s de­mand for his res­ig­na­tion.

Themba Hadebe/As­so­ci­ated Press

South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma ad­dresses the na­tion Wed­nes­day at the govern­ment’s Union Build­ings in Pre­to­ria, South Africa. Mr. Zuma says he will re­sign “with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.”

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