Jacob Zuma resigns as South Africa’s president, ending standoff with ruling party

Jacob Zuma resigns as South Africa\'s president, ending standoff with ruling party
LIVE: President Jacob Zuma’s address to the nation
nSouth African President Jacob Zuma (right) shares a laugh with Cyril Ramaphosa in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in 2012. Zuma is being forced out as president and is widely expected to be replaced by Ramaphosa. Themba Hadebe/AP hide caption

South African President Jacob Zuma (right) shares a laugh with Cyril Ramaphosa in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in 2012. Zuma is being forced out as president and is widely expected to be replaced by Ramaphosa.

Jacob Zuma became South Africa’s president in 2009 amid suspicions of corruption. After nine years in office, and many more allegations, he resigned Wednesday after his own African National Congress party told him it was time to go.

A lawyer and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, Ramaphosa is widely expected to adopt more business-friendly policies, prompting the rand to rise more than any other currency against the dollar since his election as ANC leader on Dec. 18. It advanced to its highest against the U.S. currency since February 2015 on Wednesday. It was 2.1 percent higher at 11.7129 per dollar at 11:45 p.m. in Johannesburg.
LIVE: President Jacob Zuma's address to the nation
LIVE: President Jacob Zuma’s address to the nation

Zuma, 75, was a political survivor. But he never escaped the taint of corruption, and his tenure marked the rockiest period in South Africa’s post-apartheid era.

His resignation came just hours after the Hawks, a police investigative unit, raided the Gupta family;s Johannesburg residence. One of the Gupta brothers and four other suspects were arrested in connection with the alleged shifting of funds from a failed state-funded dairy project and are due to appear in court on Thursday, Johannesburg;s City Press newspaper reported.

“There’s nothing I’ve done wrong,” he said in a defiant interview Wednesday with the South African Broadcasting Corp. “What is the problem?? I don’t understand. … I don’t think it is fair.”

South Africa's Zuma Leaves Office As He Entered — Accused Of Corruption
South Africa’s Zuma Leaves Office As He Entered — Accused Of Corruption

But the African National Congress made clear it would oppose him in a no-confidence vote in parliament. So Zuma announced his resignation in a televised broadcast Wednesday night.

Zuma spoke after the ANC announced it would hold a parliamentary vote of no confidence in him on Thursday. Calls for him to quit had grown since Ramaphosa replaced him as ANC leader in December, and his fate was sealed when the party;s National Executive Committee decided Monday to order him to step down.

The Latest: South Africa’s ANC Welcomes Zuma’s Departure

“No life should be lost in my name,” he said. “The ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president.”

;Zuma;s exit was almost inevitable once it emerged that the ANC was willing to remove him through a vote of no confidence, his former supporters deserted him and the Hawks showed their intent with raids on the Guptas,; said Mike Davies, the founder of political-advisory company Kigoda Consulting.
Zuma Quits as South African President Under Cloud of Scandal
Zuma Quits as South African President Under Cloud of Scandal

During Zuma’s presidency, a country that’s regarded itself as an African success story and an exemplar of democracy has been struggling with political turmoil, endemic corruption and a weak economy — the same issues that afflict so many of its neighbors.

;Make no mistake, no leader should stay beyond the time determined by the people they serve,;Zuma said. ;I must accept that if my party and my compatriots believe I must be removed from office, they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the constitution.;

His ouster “has all happened because President Zuma has, many people say, brought the ANC into disrepute,” said NPR’s Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. “It is hugely humiliating for Zuma, who has been an ANC stalwart since he was a very young man.”

If South Africans are looking for a silver lining in this political drama, they may find consolation in knowing that Zuma has become the second president to be removed through a peaceful political process.

Before Zuma, Thabo Mbeki was also forced out as president by the ANC, in 2008, with less than a year left in his term.

"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. I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment,” Zuma said in his address, according to News24.

And consider this: On a continent where many presidents rule for decades, no South African leader in the post-apartheid period has served out the two five-year terms allotted by the constitution.

The scandal-tainted leader said he has resigned despite his disagreement with the instruction of the ruling African National Congress party to leave office immediately. The ANC had been prepared to pursue a vote of no confidence in parliament on Thursday.

As a national icon, Nelson Mandela could have easily won a second presidential term in 1999, but at age 80, he decided it was time to step down. He died in 2013.

The Gupta business family has been a flashpoint for national anger over corruption in state enterprises during Zuma’s tenure. A judicial commission is preparing to investigate the alleged graft.

Residents fill containers with water in Cape Town, South Africa, on Feb. 1. Officials say the city could run out of water in April. It’s just one of many challenges facing South Africa. Halden Krog/AP hide caption

The African National Congress expressed gratitude for Zuma’s "loyal service" and encouraged party members to support Cyril Ramaphosa, who is now the country’s acting president.

Residents fill containers with water in Cape Town, South Africa, on Feb. 1. Officials say the city could run out of water in April. It’s just one of many challenges facing South Africa.

Mandela’s African National Congress has been in power ever since the end of apartheid in 1994. But its support has been slipping and the ANC is expected to face its most serious challenge in national elections next year.

Agents from the Hawks, an elite police investigative unit, on Wednesday entered the compound of the Gupta family in Saxonwold, an affluent neighborhood in Johannesburg.

Zuma has “become a liability to the ANC,” Quist-Arcton noted. “They’re going to elections next year, and they have to have him out.”

South African President Jacob Zuma, in a televised address to the nation, said he will resign from his position effective immediately.

Those who called for Zuma to step aside included The Nelson Mandela Foundation.

“President Zuma has abused the trust of South Africans. He must go sooner rather than later,” the foundation said in a statement last week.

Corruption at all levels in South Africa was a serious problem before Zuma’s presidency. But there’s a broad consensus it significantly worsened under him.

The country’s highest court ruled in 2016 that Zuma used government money to upgrade his lavish personal home.

Daily briefing: Zuma resigns, inflation fears, photos of the year

Zuma’s advisers argued that the swimming pool was a matter of national security: firefighters could tap into it if a blaze broke out. After losing in court, Zuma eventually agreed to pay back about $500,000 for various upgrades at the home.

Zuma’s critics often pointed to his close relationship with the wealthy Gupta family, which has received huge government contracts. Watchdog groups have accused Zuma of influence peddling, a charge Zuma and the Guptas have denied.

In the latest twist, South African police raided the Gupta family compound in Johannesburg on Wednesday, blocking off the street and declaring it a “crime scene.”

Jacob Zuma quits as President of South Africa

The ANC has made clear that Zuma’s replacement will be Cyril Ramaphosa, who will move up from deputy president in advance of next year’s ballot.

Ramaphosa was named ANC leader in December — Zuma wanted his ex-wife to get the job — and at 65 he may be the last South African leader who made his name as an anti-apartheid activist.

Ramaphosa led the black mineworkers’ union during the 1980s. He was the ANC’s main negotiator with the white government over the terms of ending apartheid.

But after the transition, Ramaphosa lost out in internal ANC battles to succeed Mandela, and has spent much of the past two decades amassing a fortune as a businessman.

South Africa’s Zuma: I’ve done nothing wrong

Supporters consider him an experienced, capable manager with a low-key style.

However, critics say he’s lost touch with poor blacks and is more in tune with the country’s wealthy elite. He’s never been a charismatic speaker and doesn’t inspire younger South Africans who know him mostly, or entirely, in the post-apartheid years.

South Africa’s Zuma says treatment ‘unfair’

South Africa has developed a black middle class and can boast the most advanced and diverse economy on the continent. Yet millions of impoverished blacks are still waiting for a leadership that can deliver on its promises.

Jacob Zuma: African National Congress unveils plans to sack the South African President

NPR’s Greg Myre reported from South Africa from 1987-93 and has returned many times since.

While Ramaphosa flip-flops, Zuma answers SA’s questions

It’s a big, confusing, messy world, and Parallels draws on NPR correspondents around the globe to connect the dots and make sense of it all. Want to know more? Check out our “About” page. Questions? You can connect with host Greg Myre and the rest of the Parallels team by email.


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