SOUTH Africa’s President Jacob Zuma finally threw in the towel by announcing his resignation, with immediate effect, on Wednesday evening in a televised address to the nation.
Zuma (75) had been under increasing pressure to step down and give way to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC’s new leader.
Earlier, in the day Zuma who had been in power since 2009, had been told by the governing ANC party to resign or face a vote of no confidence in parliament.
In his long speech Zuma said he disagreed with the way the ANC had acted towards him and that divisions within the party had influenced his decision to step down.
“No life should be lost in my name and also the ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect,” he said.
“Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC.
“As I leave I will continue to serve the people of South Africa as well as the ANC, the organisation I have served… all of my life.”
Furthermore, Zuma 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.”
Zuma’s resignation came in the wake of early morning police raids and arrests at the Johannesburg home of his close associates, the wealthy, Indian-born Gupta family.
The Guptas have been accused of using their close friendship with Zuma to wield enormous political influence.
However, Zuma made no reference to the raid when he announced his resignation SABC.
A statement issued by the ANC after Zuma’s resignation said the move provided “certainty to the people of South Africa”.
Deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte told reporters: “President Zuma remains a principled member of the ANC. The ANC wants to salute the outstanding contribution he has made.”
Duarte also confirmed members of the NEC would crisscross the country at the weekend to explain its decision to recall Zuma to its rank and file.
“We’re sending out all our NEC members to all 54 regions of the country to explain to the ANC membership why we took the decision that we took. We are not celebrating that we had to recall a cadre who has served for 60 years. We’re not celebrating tonight that he has considered all the issues and decided to resign‚” she said.
A South African political analyst said the numerous allegations of corruption against Zuma had made it impossible for his to continue as president. “By resigning Zuma has saved himself the humiliation of facing a vote of no confidence in Parliament,” the analyst said. “The raid on the property owned by the Gupta brothers who have been widely identified as the core players in state capture must have warned Zuma that the knot was tightening. He simply had to go.”
Zuma, a former member of the ANC’s military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe in the days of apartheid, rose through the ranks of the party to become president after nudging former president Thabo Mbeki aside.
He leaves office with around 700 charges of corruption hanging over him, and with South Africa’s economy in the doldrums.