South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has said he will resign “with immediate effect”.
Zuma heeded orders by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to bring an end to his nine scandal-plagued years in power.
In a 30-minute farewell address to the nation, 75-year-old Zuma nonetheless said he disagreed with the way the ANC had shoved him towards an early exit after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as party president in December.
* Zuma forced to resign after nine years in power
* Presidency tainted by corruption, economic decline
* Tight grip over ruling ANC helped him survive so long
* But party finally moved to oust him under new leader
In a protracted rant on the state broadcaster, Zuma hit out at the ill-treatment he had received at the hands of the party he had served since his teenage years.
“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect,” Zuma said.
“Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organization, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC.”
The ruling party had said it would vote him out on Thursday.
“No life should be lost in my name. And also the ANC should not be divided in my name,” Zuma said.
Zuma, besieged by sleaze scandals during his tenure, said it was “unfair” the ANC had told him to resign, mainly because his comrades had not followed proper party procedure.
To South Africans who have suffered economic stagnation and national embarrassment under Zuma, it was yet more evidence of a leader unable to look beyond the complicated inner workings of Africa’s oldest liberation movement to consider the greater good of Nelson Mandela’s ‘Rainbow Nation’.
Zuma, a 75-year-old anti-apartheid veteran, has been South Africa’s most controversial leader since the end of white minority rule in 1994.
It was Zuma’s mastery of the ANC’s internal dynamics that enabled him to survive for so long, but his political influence had been on the wane since Ramaphosa replaced him as ruling party leader in December.
Zuma was acquitted of raping a family friend in 2006 and is still fighting nearly 800 counts of corruption over a government arms deal from the late 1990s when he was deputy president.
He was found to have violated the constitution for failing to repay public money used to renovate his homestead but has so far escaped with giving a half-apology. He eventually paid back more than $500,000.
Zuma has come under fire over his ties to the Gupta family, whose members include three businessmen accused of using their friendship with him to amass wealth and influence government policy. The Guptas and Zuma deny any wrongdoing.
In 2012, Zuma also angered many for scolding “clever blacks” in a speech.