Johannesburg, Feb 15 (PTI) South Africa’s scandal-hit President Jacob Zuma has resigned, ending an impasse with his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, which was planning to side with opposition parties in Parliament to oust the embattled leader through a motion of no confidence.
Zuma, 75, announced he had stepped down in a late-night nationally-televised address, three days after the ANC’s national leadership decided at a marathon meeting to ask him to resign, which he had defiantly refused.
“I resign as President of the Republic (of South Africa) with immediate effect,” Zuma said, ending a nine-year tenure before his second and final term of office which was scheduled to end with national elections in 2019.
But he remained adamant that the decision of the ANC to replace him with Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected in his place as the new President of the ANC two months ago, was “wrong”.
“I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, (but) I have always been a disciplined member of the organisation,” Zuma said in a 30-minute speech, pledging to continue to serve the political organisation he had joined as a teenager to fight from exile against the minority white apartheid government.
Commenting on the unprecedented possibility of him being removed through action by his own party in Parliament if he did not resign, Zuma said: “I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment. They are the lawful mechanisms for the people of this beautiful country to remove their president.” Yesterday, in an unannounced TV interview, he had refused refused to quit, saying he had been given no reason by the party why he should resign.
Zuma has previously survived several motions of no confidence by opposition parties in the past.
Deputy President Ramaphosa, a wealthy former businessman, is now expected to take over as the interim President until the process of appointing a new President is concluded through the parliamentary process.
Political analysts pointed out that Zuma now had the dubious distinction of being the only politician in democratic South Africa to have been ousted from the position of both deputy president and president of the country.
In 2005, then President Thabo Mbeki, dismissed Zuma as his deputy in the light of rape charges that Zuma was facing. Zuma was later acquitted of the charges.
Although Zuma claimed earlier in the day that he had tried to stop others orchestrating Mbeki’s surprise recall in 2008, his once strongest supporter and now arch foe and leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party Julius Malema said Zuma was behind Mbeki’s removal so that he could take over as the President.
Zuma’s resignation has been met with jubilation across South Africa by business, civil society organisations and the citizenry, all of whom had united in their efforts to remove him from office.
Zuma had ingratiated himself by arbitrarily dismissing effective ministers and bringing about a huge economic crisis as a result.
He also stands accused of having been influenced by various people to appoint people to ministerial positions and as heads of parastatal bodies who would support state capture plans and corrupt activities to syphon of billions of rand of public money.
South Africa’s elite police unit had yesterday arrested three people as they raided the Johannesburg home of India-born Guptas, a controversial business family linked to Zuma.
The raids were carried out at the home of the Gupta family in the plush suburb of Saxonwold here in connection with the Vrede farm investigation.
The embattled Gupta family own a range of business interests in South Africa, including computing, mining, air travel, energy, technology and media.
The Gupta brothers have been accused of wielding enormous political influence in South Africa, with critics alleging that they have tried to “capture the state” to advance their own business interests.
Zuma’s links to the Guptas was one of the reasons he was being forced to resign before the 2019 general election.
The Guptas and Zuma have denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.