Johannesburg – South African President Jacob Zuma resigned on Wednesday in a televised address to the nation, ending a turbulent tenure marred by corruption scandals that sapped the popularity of the ruling African National Congress and hurt one of Africa’s biggest economies.
The resignation signaled an imminent end to a leadership crisis in South Africa and set the stage for Zuma to be replaced by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has promised a robust campaign against corruption but will quickly face pressure to produce results in a country struggling with unemployment, economic inequity and other problems. Ahead of 2019 elections, Ramaphosa also has the tough task of rebuilding a ruling party whose moral stature has diminished since it took power at the end of white minority rule in 1994.
“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect,” said Zuma, who added that he took the decision even though he disagreed with the ruling party’s demand that he quit immediately or face a motion of no confidence in the parliament on Thursday. Zuma, 75, had said he was willing to resign early from his second five-year term but wanted to stay in office for several more months.
“Of course, I must accept that if my party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office, they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the constitution,” Zuma said.
The African National Congress welcomed the resignation, expressing gratitude for Zuma’s “loyal service” during his nearly 10 years as president and encouraging party members to support Ramaphosa, now the country’s acting president. By the end of the week, Ramaphosa is likely to be elected president by the ANC-dominated parliament and to give a state of the nation address that had been postponed .
South Africa’s biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said the ruling party must act against associates of Zuma who are also suspected of wrongdoing and mismanagement.
“Zuma built a deep system of corruption that has penetrated every part of the government and the criminal prosecution system,” Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane said.
“Now the country looks to Cyril Ramaphosa to save us from a man that he and the ANC protected and supported. We must never allow this to happen again,” said Maimane, who wants parliament to be dissolved so that early elections can be held.
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