After weeks of speculation, Jacob Zuma is officially no longer the president of South Africa.
Zuma announced in a press conference at the Union Buildings on Wednesday night that he was resigning, despite disagreeing with the ANC.
Zuma pointed to the violence that had taken place at the ANC’s headquarters at Luthuli House when his supporters clashed with those who wanted him out.
“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the Republic with immediate effect,” Zuma said.
“Thank you, we will meet somehwhere,” he said when leaving the stage.
The ANC’s treasurer-general Paul Mashatile and chief whip Jackson Mthembu, announced on Tuesday morning that the party had decided to give Zuma a deadline of Wednesday to respond to the decision to recall him.
Should he not resign, the party resolved to hold a motion of no confidence in Zuma on Thursday.
In response, Zuma held a lengthy interview with the SABC, in which he said he asked the ANC whether he’d done anything wrong.
He also questioned the timing of the decision, asking what the hurry was. He said the matter could have been discussed at the Nasrec conference in December, but it was not on the agenda so he did not understand why it was so urgent now.
He said the state of the nation address had put pressure on talks of his exit, but he emphasised the address was postponed by him.
Zuma said the matter was handled in a way that contradicted the spirit of unity at conference.
He maintained that he wasn’t being defiant, he just “didn’t agree” with the decision to recall him and he felt that he was being “victimised”.
In his response he was going to say he was open to more discussions but now he was being rushed, he said.
He said he had been in the ANC since a young age, and he’s never seen things run like this – he still hasn’t been told why he should resign.
Following the ANC elective conference, speculation was rife that Zuma would step down sooner rather than later, after he was called upon by the ANC stalwarts and various members of the ANC NEC to step down.
City Press reported last month that ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa’s backers were planning for him to take over the reins in the next few weeks and have him deliver the state of the nation address in February.
However, Ramaphosa was worried that pushing Zuma out as president could cause divisions in the party and incur the wrath of Zuma’s KwaZulu-Natal support base.
Officials close to Ramaphosa told City Press that the new ANC president was eager to occupy office and restore confidence in the country.
ANC stalwarts had also urged Zuma to quit.
“A starting point and a clear message to the country‚ needs to be the recall of President Zuma and to let his stated wish to have his day in court become a reality‚” the stalwarts said in December.
They had expressed their disdain at the level of corruption that existed within the party’s structures.
At the conference, Zuma delivered his final speech as the ANC president, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was voted in as the party’s new political head.
Many of Zuma’s allies felt that he should leave on his own terms, rather than subject himself to the humiliation of an opposition-led impeachment process which, unlike the votes of no confidence, would have large support among ANC MPs.
In December City Press reported that it was just a matter of time before he would go.
One ANC leader said in December: “It was said that he should be requested [to step down] outside of the formalities of the NEC processes, to avoid making it appear as if the NEC removed him. If he does not cooperate, a resolution of the NEC can be easily secured. We all agree that the sooner he goes, the better.”
Zuma had filed an appeal against a court order that transferred the power to appoint the national director of public prosecutions to the deputy president.
This move angered ANC NEC members, and a motion to recall Zuma was put forward at the ANC national executive committee meeting in January, as Zuma struggled to hold on to power amid allegations of state capture and corruption involving the Guptas intensified.
Publicly, Ramaphosa and other ANC members were negotiating a “dignified” exit for Zuma, which could happen within a week.
Zuma is the second president in a democratic South Africa to resign. In September 2008, Thabo Mbeki delivered his resignation speech after being recalled by the ANC after allegedly colluding against Zuma.
Zuma has served as president of South Africa since May 2009. He was re-elected in 2014, and his term as president was expected to end in 2019.
His terms have not been without controversy, including rape and corruption allegations, and his connection to the controversial Gupta family, who have been accused of “state capture”.
The Hawks raided the Gupta compound on Wednesday morning and Ajay Gupta was taken in for questioning, amid rumours that Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, would hand himself in to the special investigating unit.