THUR, FEBRUARY 15 2018-theG&BJournal-Jacob Zuma ended his almost six decades political career when he announced late Wednesday he is quitting as South Africa president. His resignation brings to an end to an ignominious tenure that undermined the nation’s democracy and crippled the economy.
Zuma announced his resignation in a national broadcast few hours before the ruling African National Congress (ANC) was scheduled to vote on a motion of no confidence in him in parliament. His decision leaves the leadership of the nation in the hands of the party’s leader, Cyril Ramaphosa.
The rand rallied to its highest level in more than two and half years on Wednesday after his pressured resignation. It traded 2% firmer at R11.71/$ after earlier. By 07:00 this morning, the rand was trading at R11.72/$.
Zuma had been dogged by scandal since he took office in 2009, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he violated his oath of office and implications by investigators and leading academics that he let his son’s business partners loot state companies.
Under Zuma’s rule public debt tripled, growth stagnated and two ratings companies downgraded South Africa’s foreign-currency debt to junk.
Meanwhile, he is said to be running short of legal options to avoid standing trial on corruption charges that were dropped just weeks before he became president in 2009. South Africa media reports that he is likely to be summoned before a commission of inquiry set up to investigate allegations that he allowed members of the wealthy Gupta family to exert undue influence over the state.
It’s a bitter fate for a man who rose to the peak of power even though he had no formal education.
He was born in the village of Nkandla in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province. His father, a policeman, died when he was five and his mother earned too little working as a maid to send him to school, so he tended an uncle’s livestock and friends taught him to read. He joined the ANC in 1959 and three years later became a member of its armed wing, which fought against white minority rule.
Zuma was arrested while trying to leave the country in 1963, was convicted on charges of seeking to overthrow the state and served a 10-year sentence alongside Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. By 1990, with international pressure to end apartheid mounting, the government secretly brought Zuma back from exile to help coordinate talks with the ANC that culminated in the 1994 elections and Mandela’s presidency. After the vote, Zuma became economic affairs minister in KwaZulu-Natal.
Thabo Mbeki named Zuma deputy president after succeeding Mandela in 1999, only to fire him in 2005 after allegations surfaced that his financial adviser tried to solicit a bribe for him. Zuma proclaimed his innocence and prosecutors dropped charges against him. The courts reinstated the case last year.
The scandal proved a temporary setback. Zuma won control of the ANC in December 2007 by trouncing Mbeki, who was dumped as the nation’s president eight months later. Kgalema Motlanthe then took over as caretaker president until Zuma assumed the post in May 2009.
Zuma secured a second presidential term in 2014. While his administration increased access to welfare grants and AIDS drugs, it didn’t meet pledges to create jobs for the more than 25% of workers who were unemployed, revamp a failing education system or take a stand against graft – something of which Zuma himself was accused.