Johannesburg, Feb. 15, 2018 (TNE) Jacob Zuma resigned as President of South Africa on Wednesday, reluctantly heeding orders by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to bring an end to his nine scandal-plagued years in power.
In a 30-minute farewell address to the nation, 75-year-old Zuma said he disagreed with the way the ANC had shoved him toward an early exit after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as party president in December, but would accept its orders.
“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect,” Zuma said.
“Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC,” he said. The ruling party had said it would vote him out on Thursday.
“No life should be lost in my name. And also the ANC should not be divided in my name,” Zuma said.
His resignation came just hours after police raided the luxury home of the Gupta family, Indian-born billionaire allies of the president who have been at the centre of corruption allegations against Zuma and his circle for years. Zuma and the Guptas have always denied wrongdoing.
The ANC, which replaced Zuma as party leader in December with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ordered him to step down as president on Tuesday.
When he failed to resign on Wednesday, it announced that it would back an opposition motion in parliament to force him out.
His resignation ends the career of the former anti-apartheid resistance fighter, who has four wives, a sharp tongue and a decades-long history of entanglement in scandals that polarised Nelson Mandela’s “Rainbow Nation”.
The rand currency, which has gained ground whenever Zuma has hit political turbulence, soared more than one percent to a 2-1/2 year high of 11.66 against the dollar during the day, as pressure piled on Zuma to resign.
His party hailed his decision to go.
“This decision provides certainty to the people of South Africa at a time when economic and social challenges to the country require an urgent and resolute response,” said the ANC’s deputy secretary general, Jessie Duarte.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s parliament will elect Cyril Ramaphosa as new president at 2pm local time (1200 GMT) on Thursday and have him take the oath of office, the ruling African National Congress chief whip said.
“The office of the chief justice has made itself available today to officiate in the business of electing a new president,” the ANC chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, told a parliamentary committee meeting.
At the same meeting, the speaker of parliament said a letter of resignation from President Jacob Zuma, who stepped down late on Wednesday rather than face a no-confidence vote from his own party, was “still on its way”.
South Africans woke up to a nation without Zuma as president for the first time in nine years on Thursday, released from the burden of a compromised leader who darkened the dreams and aspirations of the post-apartheid.
Experts said the road back to prosperity and self-respect will be long and hard in a nation so divided by race and inequality but Zuma’s ultimate demise proved the enduring strength of its institutions, from the courts to the media and the constitution.
“Defiant in defeat” and “Going, Going, Gone” were some of the newspaper headlines that captured Zuma’s reluctance to leave.
“South Africa’s long nightmare is over,” read the headline of an analysis on online news site Daily Maverick.
“One chapter in South Africa’s political soap-opera has finally ended with the resignation on Wednesday night of President Jacob Zuma,” NKC African Economics analysts wrote in a note.
“It would be gratifying to see the dedication and purpose the ANC put into ridding itself of Zuma now be directed into rebuilding the economy, dealing with the corruption still residing in the ANC and improving its shoddy governance record.”
Police said on Wednesday three people were arrested during the raids on various properties in Johannesburg.
State broadcaster SABC said a Gupta family member was among those detained, while a senior judicial source said police were expected to arrest up to seven more people and that Gupta family members would be among them.
Police said the raid was in connection with a state-funded dairy farm, which prosecutors last month called a “scheme designed to defraud and steal”.
The suspects are expected to appear in court.