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BREAKING: SA’s president quits

Shortly after 10pm on the night of 14 February 2018, South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, resigned. He said that he disagreed with the decision of his party to recall him.

South Africa's president Jacob Zuma has resigned. Zuma was asked to step down by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) a week ago. After a week of failed dialogue and negotiation, the ANC gave Zuma an ultimatum: resign or the party will go ahead with a vote of no confidence in the country's parliament on the afternoon of 15 February. By doing this, the party applied more pressure on the incumbent to resign.

In a rambling TV interview with SA's state broadcaster on the afternoon of 14 February, Zuma claimed that he had done nothing wrong, that he was being victimised and that the ANC's leadership was plunging the country into a constitutional crisis. He also said that he would not resign. Zuma made a number of veiled threats and claimed that he was not being defiant but rather in a disagreement with his party's leadership.

However, during a late night address on Wednesday, less than two hours before the deadline given by his party, Zuma declared that he did “not fear exiting political office” and that he did not fear impeachment or a vote of no confidence as these were tools of democracy.

Calling for unity, Zuma declared that issues of violence had disturbed him and stated that no life should be lost in his name and that 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”.

He stated that he did not agree with the decision of the ANC leadership to recall him, but had always been a disciplined member of the party.

“I will continue to serve the people of South Africa and the ANC”, he said during the address.

The country's State of the Nation Address (SONA) was postponed last week because a change in leadership was anticipated. Late on Wednesday afternoon, the ANC issued a statement saying that a new president would be sworn in on Friday 16 February and that the delayed SONA would be delivered that night.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current president of the ANC, will be sworn in as national president on Friday.

Traditionally the position of deputy president is determined by the head of state. Similarly, ministers serve at the pleasure of the president. A major cabinet reshuffle is expected to take place soon.

Zuma thanked South Africans for the privilege of serving as president of the country. He also thanked members of cabinet and government at all levels for the “positive spirit and cooperative manner in which we all worked”.

In response to Zuma's resignation the ANC's deputy secretary general, Jesse Duarte, said that he had done what the party had asked and that they want “to salute the outstanding contribution he has made”.

Duarte said that the ANC had asked all the party's members of parliament to vote ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa in as the new president of the country.

Fast facts:

  • Zuma served as Deputy President of South Africa from 1999 to 2005, but was dismissed by then-president Thabo Mbeki.
  • Zuma became president of the African National Congress in 2007 and became president of South Africa in 2009.
  • Zuma faces 783 charges relating to corruption. His resignation opens the way to court proceedings.
  • Since he has resigned, Zuma will cease to receive benefits of a former president.

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.


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Russell Pollitt SJ
Director of the Jesuit Institute South Africa and Editor-in-Chief of He studied the social sciences, theology and communications. He worked as pastor of the Jesuit’s downtown parish in Johannesburg, South Africa, for 7 years before moving to the Jesuit Institute. He is interested in the relationship between faith and society and the contribution that faith can make to public policy. He regularly comments on politics in South Africa and issues in the Catholic Church. He conducts workshops in South Africa on social media and the human person.

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