*Resigns with immediate effect after excess pressures
South Africa’s embattled President, Jacob Zuma, has resigned his office with immediate effect. He made the announcement in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening.
Earlier, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party told him to resign or face a vote of no confidence in parliament on Thursday.
The 75-year-old has been under increasing pressure to give way to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC’s new leader.
Zuma, who has been in power since 2009, faces numerous allegations of corruption and rape.
His resignation came at the end of a long speech in which he said he disagreed with the way the ANC had acted towards him.
He said he did not fear a motion of no confidence, adding: “I have served the people of South Africa to the best of my ability.”
Cyril Ramaphosa taking over a very divided house: His resignation came after a week of intense pressure, culminating in leaders of the ruling ANC ordering him to step down on Tuesday. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced Zuma as ANC leader in December, is expected to become acting president, according to South African law.
Zuma is a veteran of the fight against apartheid and was imprisoned on Robben Island at the same time as Mandela. To his critics, Zuma’s early departure — his term as head of state was not up until next year — marks the end of a frustrating era in which the president’s name became nearly synonymous with the use of the public office for personal gain.
“It is my party that placed me the representative of the people. It is my party that availed me,” Zuma said in his speech from Union Buildings.
“Make no mistake, no leader should stay beyond the time the people they serve. No leader should seek an easy way out because they could face a life without the perks of political office.”
Story of Zuma: Zuma, who served as the country’s president since 2009, joined the ANC in 1958.
He is considered one of the party stalwarts, having served for 10 years on the Robben Island prison alongside freedom fighter Nelson Mandela and living in exile before returning to South Africa in 1990.
Despite being known for being an astute political operator, Zuma’s presidency was characterised by scandal and corruption allegations, making him the most controversial president since the end of apartheid.
South Africa will look back and wonder how we allowed a president so reprehensible to last so long in office.
South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled last December that parliament had failed to hold him accountable over the alleged use of state funds to upgrade his rural home in Nkandla.
That followed an earlier court decision in April 2016 that found Zuma had “failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution”.
State capture scandal: It resulted in an impeachment vote that same month, but the motion failed to pass when parliament, where the ANC holds a majority, voted 233 to 143 in Zuma’s favour.
Zuma was also found to have given favour to an Indian immigrant family known as the Guptas, in what became known as the state capture scandal.
It was reported that the family wielded such influence over Zuma that they were able to decide who got appointed to the cabinet.
Zuma has always claimed his innocence and some South Africans still defend him, saying he was targeted unfairly in a system that is underpinned by corruption.
“When it comes to the allegations of state capture, the state was captured a long time ago. And here we are focusing only on Zuma. There is a broader perspective one needs to take when looking at state capture,” Wandile Giwa, a 26-year-old student said.
Joy on South African streets on Thursday: Most South Africans are expected to be overjoyed by Zuma’s ouster by Thursday. This is given the lateness with which the resignation filtered into the streets which has seemingly gone to bed.
The call for the former President to step down reached a crescendo in early February when the Nelson Mandela Foundation released a statement calling for him to go immediately.
“President Zuma has abused the trust of South Africans. He must go, sooner rather than later. Time is of the essence,” the foundation said.
The court rulings heightened pressure on new ANC head Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected party leader in December 2017, to force Zuma to step down as the party looks to repair its reputation.
But he had survived several no-confidence votes in parliament and until early February believed he would survive another.
The tide changed, however, and several of his allies abandoned him.
Zuma deeply divides the ANC more: Ramaphosa has been clear that he had no intention of humiliating Zuma and the ANC itself reportedly wanted him to bow out on his own, rather than drag out the process.
Still, the former President leaves the ANC deeply divided and analysts say the party faces a serious challenge to repair its reputation in his wake.
“Ramaphosa will have a hard time fixing a party that faces indecision and disagreement over its values at every level,” said Ebrahim Fakir, an independent political analyst.