Jacob Zuma’s reluctant resignation

World Economic Forum on Africa 2009
Former President Jacob Zuma at the 2009 World Economic Forum. [Wikimedia Commons]
Valentine’s Day 2018 will be remembered in South Africa as the day the country’s most unpopular President in Democratic history resigned from office. He was scheduled to make an announcement from 22:00 on the Wednesday evening from the Union Buildings and was more or less 35 minutes late. We now know that he fought the resignation demand by the African National Congress (ANC) right up until the bitter end. It was indeed a very dramatic end to an equally dramatic 9 years that was the Jacob Zuma administration.

The contents of his speech have been described as disjointed and as a result South Africans hung in limbo as to whether or not he would be resigning during his late night address (full speech).

Zuma was persistent in finishing his last term as the President of the Republic of South Africa and dug his heels in when asked by his own party to resign with dignity. If he failed to resign his removal would have taken place the following day by a parliamentary motion of no confidence vote. This particular motion was brought forth by an opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) thus not exactly a favourable turn of events for the ANC; fortunately for them Jacob Zuma did in fact resign, saving them the embarrassment of having to follow through with an opposition party’s motion of no confidence.

Zuma’s disagreement with the ANC

“I resign as the President of the Republic with immediate effect,” Zuma said, but followed up with “…I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organization…” because, according to him, he’d always been a “disciplined member of the ANC.”

Before he addressed the nation with his resignation he had told the SABC that he’d done nothing wrong and calls for him to step down were not fair. Zuma argued that the ANC couldn’t tell him what he’d done wrong. An opinion piece that appeared on the Mail & Guardian’s site summed up in point form what Zuma did wrong.

President Cyril Ramaphosa (then Deputy) at the 21st NEDLAC Summit [Flickr]
Zuma’s retaliation threat

According to a report by News24 and CityPress, Jacob Zuma refused to budge despite his lawyers, senior members of his party and family members telling him it was over and that he should let it go because he’d likely lose this fight to remain in power.

Before the resignation a meeting between the now incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule and the now Former President Zuma took place. In the meeting Ramaphosa reportedly gave Zuma two options: Resign or be removed by parliament, to which he responded he wouldn’t be going anywhere and that the ANC must do whatever it wants to do, but should it decide to recall him, he would retaliate.

There isn’t a definitive answer as to how Zuma intended to retaliate. He did however point out that he deployed soldiers in the past. This, according to an unnamed ANC source, alluded to the fact that he was not a civilian and the commander-in-chief of forces that were ready to defend him. Of course it did not come to that.

State of Emergency

An unnamed source told CityPress that had protest action flared up in defense of Jacob Zuma as a result of public dissent against the ANC’s decision to recall him, he could have declared a state of emergency as the President, which would likely have resulted in him retaining office. Whether this was his intention or not, an opportunity to declare a state of emergency in South Africa did not materialise.

After telling the SABC he disagreed with the ANC’s decision to recall him on the afternoon of  February 14th, there was little to zero support for him. The usual Zuma supporters within the structure of the ANC did not issue any statements in his defense, there was no public outrage aimed at the ANC, no legal grounds upon which Zuma could use to prevent the ANC recalling him, and ultimately no good reason for a state of emergency declaration.

Beginning of the Cyril Ramaphosa Presidency

The end of the Jacob Zuma Presidency immediately gave rise to a new one. Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as President of South Africa the day after Jacob Zuma announced his resignation. There was very little opposition to Ramaphosa’s nomination except for the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), and the EFF calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections.

There were no other candidates nominated to take the office of President and Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in unopposed. He will serve as the President until the general elections in 2019, in which he will run as the ANC’s candidate.

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