South Africa’s embattled President Jacob Zuma has resigned his office with immediate effect.
Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, has resigned after days of defying orders from the ruling African National Congress to leave office and on the eve of a no-confidence vote in parliament.
In a televised address to the nation late on Wednesday, the 75-year-old said he was a disciplined member of the ANC, to which he had dedicated his life.
“I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment … I will continue to serve the people of South Africa and the ANC. I will dedicate my life to continuing to work for the execution of the policies of our organisation,” Zuma said.
“No life should be lost in my name. The ANC should never been divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect.”
The resignation ended an extraordinary day in South African politics, which had begun with a dawn raid on a business family at the centre of the recent corruption allegations levelled at Zuma.
At noon, ANC officials announced they would vote for an opposition party’s no-confidence motion in parliament on Thursday.
Late in the afternoon, Zuma gave an angry and rambling TV interview to justify his refusal to obey his own party’s order to step down.
But his speech was more confident and warm.
The president started with a joke with journalists about the late hour, and his trademark chuckle. He expressed his gratitude to the ANC and South Africans for the privilege of serving them at the “pinnacle” of public life, before saying thank you and goodbye in three local languages.
Zuma’s resignation leaves the path clear for deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over the leadership of the ANC in December, to be elected by parliament to the highest office.
Zuma, a former anti-apartheid activist who has led the ANC since 2007 and been South Africa’s president since 2009, was due to leave power next year.
His tenure has been marred by economic decline and multiple charges of graft that have undermined the image and legitimacy of the party that led South Africans to freedom in 1994.
To his critics, the president’s early departure — his term as head of state was not up until national elections next year — marks the end of a frustrating era in which the nation drifted and Zuma’s name became nearly synonymous with the use of the public office for personal gain.
Many South Africans hope Ramaphosa, should South Africa’s parliament elect him as the nation’s next president this week as expected, will put South Africa on a new path, taking on corruption and restoring the reputation of Africa’s oldest liberation movement.
In his statement, Zuma reiterated comments he made earlier in the day in a televised interview that he did not agree with his party’s decision to order him out of office, nor had he been told why he had to leave.
“I do not fear exiting political office,” he said. “However I have only asked my party to articulate my transgressions and the reason for its immediate instruction that I vacate office.”
Despite announcing their decision to recall Zuma on Tuesday, ANC officials have been reticent about why they think he should resign, in an apparent reluctance to broach the matter of the numerous corruption scandals he has been embroiled in.
During the interview, Zuma stated repeatedly that he did not agree with his party’s decision to order him out of office before his term is up next year, saying it was not in keeping with party’s tradition. He warned that infighting among leaders in the governing party could end in violence on the streets between ANC supporters who disagree with one another.
“The manner in which you remove the president is a very serious matter . . . you don’t force people,” Zuma said. “I think we are being plunged in a crisis that I’m sure my comrades, my leaders will regret. Some people may not like this, may feel something is wrong.”
As he spoke, a clock in the corner of the television screen on the eNCA news channel counted down the hours, minutes and seconds to the deadline the party has given him to resign.