Jacob Zuma resigned as South Africa’s president in a televised address on Wednesday, ending nine years of scandal-hit rule and paving the way for Cyril Ramaphosa to take power after weeks of turmoil in the ruling African National Congress.
An unapologetic Mr Zuma said he would leave office with immediate effect despite disagreeing with the ANC’s order for him to resign, which it had been preparing to back up with a no-confidence vote in parliament on Thursday. “No life should be lost in my name. I have come to the decision to resign with immediate effect, even though I disagree with the leadership of my organisation,” Mr Zuma said.
“I do not fear exiting political office, however I have asked the party to articulate my transgressions … I fear no motion of no confidence nor impeachment,” Mr Zuma said, adding that he had done nothing wrong.
But he added in Zulu that “I was never stubborn, I never refused to go” and that he only wanted to exit power constitutionally, before announcing his resignation.
Mr Zuma’s resignation ends an unprecedented political crisis for the ANC after a weeks-long power struggle with Mr Ramaphosa, deputy president and the party’s leader after defeating Mr Zuma’s preferred successor last year. “We’re not celebrating … We have to give this comrade respect and spare him the humiliation of no confidence votes in parliament,” Jessie Duarte, the ANC deputy secretary-general, said in response to Mr Zuma’s resignation.
The ANC had formally fired Mr Zuma as president this week, and on Wednesday increased the pressure by preparing the vote of no-confidence.
With Mr Zuma’s resignation Mr Ramaphosa, a former trade unionist in the anti-apartheid struggle who rose to become one of South Africa’s richest black businessmen, is likely to be elected as president on Thursday in parliament, where the ANC has a majority.
Once elected, on Friday Mr Ramaphosa is due to deliver a presidential state of the nation address — delayed last week amid the ANC infighting — before presiding over a crucial budget next week.
Earlier on Wednesday Mr Zuma had refused to resign in the face of the ANC’s call for him to go, telling South Africa’s state broadcaster that the ANC had treated him unfairly. His defiance fuelled speculation that he would refuse to resign unless parliament voted him out — until the late-night address. “I need to be furnished on what I have done and unfortunately that hasn’t been done,” Mr Zuma said in the interview.
Mr Zuma’s nine years in the presidency were marked by scandals over corruption in government that fuelled the demands in the ANC for him to go.
On Wednesday police raided and made arrests at the home of the Gupta business family, who are accused of using a friendship with Mr Zuma to control state business including ministerial appointments and contracts from government-owned companies. He and the Guptas have always denied the claims.
The Financial Times