Cape Town, South Africa: In a 30-minute national television broadcast, today, South Africa President Jacob Zuma said he had “come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect”. Zuma railed against the African National Congress (ANC) for “recalling” him from office and threatening to oust him via a parliament no-confidence vote due on Thursday.
Zuma resigned as the ruling ANC party finally turned against him after nine years of corruption scandals, economic slowdown and falling popularity.
Zuma has been in a power struggle with multimillionaire former businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president who now becomes interim president.
Ramaphosa, who won control of the ANC when he was elected as its head in December, is set to be voted in by lawmakers as South Africa’s new president on Thursday or Friday.
Zuma, whose reputation has been stained by years-long allegations of graft, complained that the ANC party had never explained to him why he had to leave office.
In an earlier TV interview on Wednesday he said he had received “very unfair” treatment from the party he joined in 1959 and in which he had fought for decades against apartheid white-minority rule.
He said he was angered over “the manner in which the decision is being implemented … I don’t agree as there is no evidence of if I have done anything wrong.”
The party’s national executive committee ordered his recall from office on Tuesday, after a 13-hour meeting at a hotel outside Pretoria.
ANC officials had said that if Zuma did not resign on Wednesday, the party’s lawmakers in the Cape Town parliament would vote out Zuma on Thursday.
But senior party official Jesse Duarte said after the resignation that “we are not celebrating”.
“We have had to recall a cadre of the movement that has served this organisation for over 60 years, it’s not a small matter,” she added.
A student holds a placard reading ‘Zuma must fall’ outside the Luthuli House, the ANC headquarters, in Johannesburg. File photo: Reuters
On Wednesday morning, police had raided the Johannesburg home of the Gupta business family, which is accused of overseeing a web of corruption under Zuma’s rule.
Police said three unidentified people had been arrested in investigations into “Vrede Farm” – allegations that millions of dollars of public money meant for poor dairy farmers were siphoned off by the Guptas.
Local media reported that Zuma had been pushing for an exit deal that included covering his legal fees fighting multiple criminal charges – but he denied the allegations in his resignation speech.
One case against him relates to 783 payments he allegedly received linked to an arms deal before he came to power.
Many other graft allegations have centred on the three Gupta brothers, who are accused of unfairly obtaining lucrative government contracts and even being able to choose Zuma’s ministerial appointments.
Zuma has admitted he is friends with the Guptas, originally from India, but has denied any wrongdoing.
The political wrangling in recent weeks plunged South Africa – the continent’s most developed economy – into confusion over who was running the country, with last Thursday’s annual State of the Nation address cancelled at the last-minute.
Zuma’s presidency was marred by slow economic growth, continuing racial inequality and record unemployment that fuelled public frustration.
He was expected to stand down next year after serving the maximum two terms since coming to power in 2009.
In local polls in 2016, the ANC recorded its worst electoral result since coming to power in 1994 with Nelson Mandela at the helm as white-minority rule fell.
Ramaphosa, 65, the deputy president, must revive the economy and crack down on what he has admitted is rampant government corruption if he is to boost the party’s tarnished reputation before a tricky election next year.
He is a former trade unionist and Mandela ally who led talks to end apartheid in the early 1990s and then became a hugely wealthy businessman before returning to politics.
Zuma’s hold over the ANC was shaken in December when his chosen successor – his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – narrowly lost to Ramaphosa in a vote for the new party leader.
EARLIER: ANC To Recall South Africa President Jacob Zuma – The national executive committee (NEC), African National Congress (ANC) – South Africa’s governing political party – decided to recall President Jacob Zuma at its marathon meeting in Irene on Monday. The NEC is, according to the ANC’s constitution, mandated to remove its public office bearers.
Shortly before midnight, state media said Zuma had been told in person by ANC head, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa,that he had 48 hours to resign. Nigeria Circle News learnt that Zuma already turned down the request.
The ANC NEC reportedly decided to recall President Jacob Zuma after he earlier refused to resign. Sources say the meeting turned down Zuma’s request for a 3 months stay. The ANC will write to him a letter on its decision, then they will hear from Zuma, according to reports.
Previous efforts to persuade Zuma, 75, to step down for the good of the party before his term next year have proven unsuccessful.
On Monday, however, the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC), which has the power to demand Zuma’s ouster, took up the issue.
“[Because] our people want this matter to be finalised, the NEC will be doing precisely that,” Ramaphosa told a rally – at the launch of the ANC’s Nelson Mandela centenary celebration – in Cape Town on Sunday, according to reports.
Ramaphosa added that the matter would be resolved at Monday’s NEC meeting.
“As the leadership of the African National Congress, we are currently engaged in discussions around the transition to a new administration and specifically to resolve the issues of the position of the President of the Republic,” he said.
“The successful resolution of this matter has significant consequences for the country and for the African National Congress.”
Ramaphosa didn’t provide any detail on the discussions he had with Zuma. However, he said it was important that these discussions were managed with “care and purpose”.
Ramaphosa postponed an ANC NEC meeting last Wednesday that would have decided Zuma’s fate after the president told the top six that he would not resign. Instead, Ramaphosa continued talks with Zuma, who apparently had a set of conditions for his resignation.
On Thursday, Ramaphosa reportedly told the ANC caucus that immunity for Zuma was not on the table.
Last week, Parliament’s presiding officers, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise announced the unprecedented decision to postpone the State of the Nation Address, which was scheduled for last Thursday. There had been mounting pressure on Zuma not to deliver the annual address to both houses of Parliament.
Nigeria Circle News learnt that cautious NEC members want the party’s highest decision-making body, between conferences, to also give the Parliamentary caucus a mandate to support a motion of no confidence against Zuma, in case he defies the NEC decision to recall him.
The African National Congress already replaced Zuma as head of the party with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a move signaling that Ramaphosa will be the party’s presidential candidate in 2019.
Ramphosa said on Wednesday that he and Zuma had been holding direct talks on a transfer of power.
Zuma had previously insisted that he be allowed to fulfill his term, but he faces the reinstatement of corruption charges over a $2.5 billion government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s when he was deputy president.