Johannesburg, Feb 15 (IANS) South African President Jacob Zuma, who survived a string of corruption scandals and harsh court judgments during his nearly nine-year presidency, has quit finally after intense pressure from the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Deputy President and ANC’s new leader Cyril Ramaphosa is now the acting President until the National Assembly elects a new Presidentâ South Africa’s Times Live reported.
Despite an earlier show of defiance, Zuma announced his resignation in a 30-minute farewell address to the nation on late Wednesday, just an hour before the deadline set for him by the ANC, in an effort to avoid dividing the party.
Zuma said he was resigning even though he disagreed with the ANC’s decision.
“No life should be lost in my name and also the ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as President of the republic with immediate effect even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation. I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC,” he said.
He said he wished to be removed in line with the Constitution, the BBC reported.
Zuma, a former member of the ANC’s military wing in the days of apartheid, rose through the ranks of the party to become the President. He led the country for more than a third of its time after apartheid.
But he leaves office with several scandals hanging over him and with South Africa’s economy in dire straits.
He apologized to the nation for the errors committed during his term in office. Speaking in Zulu, he said he believed he had performed the task given to him by the country, but where he had erred, “may I please be forgiven”.
Zuma said he would continue to serve the party and the country.
The ANC said Zuma’s resignation provided “certainty to the people of South Africa”.
Influence peddling in his administration was so widespread, according to the nation’s former public protector, that it became a form of state capture in which Zuma’s business partners or friends influenced government decisions for their personal interest.
His resignation ended an extraordinary day in the South African politics, which had begun with a dawn raid on the controversial Gupta family — a clan of Indian-born businessmen — at the centre of the graft allegations levelled against Zuma.
The Guptas have been accused of “state capture” — using their close ties with Zuma to influence ministerial appointments, secure multi-million dollar government contracts and gain access to inside information.
Meanwhile, acting President Ramaphosa said South Africa was coming out of a “period of uncertainty, a period of darkness and getting into a new phase”.
Neeshan Balton, the executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada foundation, an NGO dedicated to the values of the freedom struggle, said Zuma’s resignation would be greeted by a “sigh of relief from all South Africans”.
“For the first time in almost a decade, South Africans can rejoice that the sun has set on the Zuma era. We can finally celebrate that the President, who had become a symbol of the erosion of state integrity, has left office,” he said.