South Africa: Zuma Resigns, Ramaphosa Sworn In

Published: 15 February 2018

Zuma copyPresident Jacob Zuma resigned on Wednesday (Photo: Matthew Jordaan, CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Sinead Carolan

South African President Jacob Zuma finally resigned Wednesday evening, after hemming and hawing his way through Tuesday’s announcement that his party, the African National Congress (ANC), no longer stood behind him.

In his address to the nation announcing his decision, Zuma declared that he would stand down even though he disagreed with his party for ordering him to do so, reports The New York Times.

Although Zuma, during his eight years as president, survived numerous corruption scandals, multiple court trials including a rape trial, and several votes of no-confidence, the impending vote of no-confidence scheduled by his own party for Thursday seems to have been the final straw.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president whose election as ANC leader in December set off a power struggle with Zuma, immediately became acting president, and was officially confirmed by parliament on Thursday.

Ramaphosa is a former labor union leader who later became a wealthy businessman, campaigning on fighting corruption and reviving South Africa's economy, reports The Washington Post.

Zuma, in his resignation address derided his party for what he saw as a step out of line.

“I understand fully that while I serve at the pleasure of my party, the ANC, the door through which I officially came to serve the people of South Africa is the National Assembly,” he said.

Zuma went on to express that while his administration was not perfect, anyone could have made his mistakes in office.

“I do not make this reference because I am above reproach,” he said.

“Nor do I wish to proclaim that in undertaking my political responsibilities I have been the epitome of perfection. If truth be told, none of us are.”

His speech was published by South African media outlet, Eyewitness News.

Ace Magashule — who is third in the ANC’s hierarchy — said corruption accusations against the president had played no role in their decision to call for Zuma’s resignation.

However, corruption in Zuma’s administration was so widespread that it took the form of state capture, according to the nation’s former public protector. Zuma’s business partners and friends, such as the infamous Gupta brothers, were able to twist the government’s arm and personally offer Zuma kickbacks in return for decisions made in their personal interest.

Zuma still faces possible corruption charges for an arms deal in the 1990s, before he was president, reports The New York Times.

Sisonke Msimang, a columnist at The Daily Maverick, writing for Foreign Policy Magazine, spoke of the silver lining hidden in Zuma’s legacy. It seems his “penchant for looting and mismanagement has unwittingly strengthened the indomitable will of South Africa’s more than 55 million residents.”