Saturday 14 December 2019

Besieged Zuma's reign as SA president over after nine years

Jacob Zuma addresses the South African nation last night. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
Jacob Zuma addresses the South African nation last night. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Krista Mahr in Johannesburg

It began with an early morning police raid and ended with the resignation of the president, who finally bowed to pressure in front of the cameras.

South Africa woke up to news that an elite police team had arrested three people at the home of the Guptas, a family linked to corruption - which they deny - engulfing Jacob Zuma's final year in office.

By the afternoon, Mr Zuma had appeared on television in a planned interview in which he seemed to defy an ultimatum from his party to step down before a vote of no confidence.

But in a stunning U-turn, he later returned to face the cameras and resigned from office late yesterday, saying that though he did not agree with his party's decision to recall him, he would abide by their instruction.

"I have served the people of South Africa to the best of my ability. I am forever grateful they trusted me with their highest office of the land," Mr Zuma said in a televised statement in Pretoria late last night.

Mr Zuma added that he was concerned about violence breaking out between ANC members as the party grew more divided. "No life should be lost in my name, and also the ANC should never be divided in my name," he said. "I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect."

At his earlier television appearance he had said he didn't know why South Africa's ruling party had ordered him to step down from his job before his term is up next year, and warned that the leaders forcing him out would regret their actions.

"It's the first time I've felt an African National Congress decision is not right," the long-time ANC member and anti-apartheid struggle veteran said. "I don't think it is fair."

On Tuesday, the ANC announced they had ordered Mr Zuma to leave his office, and that party officials expected the president to respond the next day. But as yesterday morning passed with no word from the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the party issued an ultimatum: Mr Zuma could resign voluntarily by the end of the day, or the party planned to vote him out in a motion of no confidence today.

"We are all in agreement that the president must go," said Jackson Mthembu, the chief whip, said after a meeting of ANC lawmakers in Cape Town.

The Johannesburg home of the Guptas, a wealthy business family whose relationship to Mr Zuma has been under national scrutiny, was raided by the Hawks, a special police unit.

Three business associates were arrested in the raid and two others handed themselves in to police later.

A lawyer for the Guptas said that the brothers had not been among those arrested. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Zimbabwe's veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has died aged 65, bringing an end to his long campaign to lead his country. He had been having treatment for colon cancer in neighbouring South Africa.

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