Bow­ing to re­al­ity, Zuma steps down from pres­i­dency

The Palm Beach Post - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - Norim­itsu Onishi

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — Pres­i­dent 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 African Na­tional Congress Party, cor­nered by op­po­si­tion par­ties 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 or­der­ing 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 — im­me­di­ately be­came act­ing pres­i­dent.

To­day, Ramaphosa is al­most cer­tain to be cho­sen 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 the 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.

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