Jacob Zuma resigns as South Africa’s president, ending standoff with ruling party
CAPE TOWN — South Africa’s embattled president, Jacob Zuma, resigned on Wednesday, putting an end to a period of scandal and mismanagement that threatened to destroy the party of Nelson Mandela.
Zuma’s resignation leaves his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, as the country’s acting leader, and a man now charged with salvaging the legacy of Africa’s most famous liberation movement. Zuma was once revered as a hero of that movement, who served as a political prisoner alongside Mandela in his youth. But Zuma’s nine years in power, marred by a string of corruption allegations, drove even party loyalists away from the once seemingly indefatigable African National Congress (ANC).
But to many here, the most destructive aspect of Zuma’s legacy was his failure to deliver on the promises of post-apartheid South Africa. Twenty-four years after Mandela rose to power, promising a (((rainbow nation))) of shared prosperity, South Africa remains one of the world’s most unequal countries, with many blacks living in conditions much like those they endured under the white nationalist government. Under intense pressure from the ruling African National Congress party, Zuma said his decision was spurred by altercations that had taken place outside the party headquarters in Johannesburg in recent days.
“No life should be lost in my name, and also the ANC should never be divided in my name,” the 75-year-old head of state said in a televised statement in Pretoria. “I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect, even though I disagree with the leadership of my organization,” he said. “I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC.” The resignation came one day after ANC ordered him to step down or face a vote of no confidence in Parliament. It ends a long week of limbo for many South Africans as the ANC has tried to persuade Zuma to resign and renew South Africans’ faith in the party.
Zuma was South Africa’s fourth president since the end of apartheid, the harsh racial-segregation policy that stripped rights from the black majority. Born poor, Zuma taught himself to read and write and joined the anti-apartheid ANC at age 17. He eventually became a member of its armed wing in 1962 and was part of a group of dozens of activists convicted of trying to overthrow the white-minority government. He served 10 years in the infamous Robben Island prison with Mandela and other ANC leaders.
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.