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South Africa: Jacob Zuma finally resigns from the presidency

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma

Former South African President Jacob Zuma

South Africa’s Jacob Zuma has capitulated to the demands of the ruling African National Congress and resigned, only hours after initially refusing to budge.

“I have come to a decision to resign with immediate effect,” said the president late on Wednesday.

Zuma, president since 2009, had been formally recalled by the ANC on Tuesday, but refused to heed the call, resulting in his party threatening a vote of no-confidence on Thursday.

On Wednesday, as the stalemate between Zuma and the ANC continued, the police moved in on the Guptas, a South African family from India accused of wielding undue influence on the South African government through Zuma. Whether this raid and his resignation are sheer coincidence or correlated is unknown.

His resignation puts an end to a saga that has engulfed South Africa since December, when the ANC held its elections, resulting in Cyril Ramaphosa taking over as the leader of the party. Cyril narrowly beat Zuma’s preferred successor, his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

This effectively created two centers of powers, and the ANC had been negotiating Jacob Zuma’s exit since then.

Zuma’s term was meant to end in 2019; following his resignation, Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to be appointed the acting president this Thursday as the nation awaits the election of a new president in 30 days.

Since South Africa is a parliamentary republic, this election will occur in Parliament, with the ANC candidate likely to become president, if the party maintains its unity.

While he may not be tainted by allegations that haunted Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa comes to the presidency with a besmirched past.

He’s been accused of and admitted to an extramarital affair, and his role in the Marikana Massacre still haunts him.

The Marikana Massacre, the worst post-Apartheid killing of South Africans by security forces, refers to the killing of 34 mine workers at the Lonmin Platinum Mines on 16 August 2012.

Ramaphosa was a board member of Lonmin at the time, and was accused of lobbying for the government to respond to the industrial action (a workers’ strike) with a mighty show of force; this response resulted in many workers being shot in the back.

He was cleared of all accusations in 2015, but questions about Marikana are yet to be exhaustively answered.