Since the end of January, the NEC was involved with Zuma in a contentious discussion about Zuma’s exit. However, the tension started to really build over the last two weeks. During an ANC meeting at Luthuli House on 5 February, violent clashes erupted outside between pro-and anti-Zuma protesters. However, discussions between the NEC and the deputy president and president of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa and Zuma, continued. The next day, according to News24, Speaker of Parliament Baleke Mbete postponed the State of the Nation Address “in the interest of the country” as position pressure mounted. On 9 February, Ramaphosa called for South Africans to be patient and acknowledged that he and Zuma had been in discussions about matters relating to the president of the country while he and the rest of the ANC top six pulled out of public events to deal with “pressing matters”. On 12 February, a joint conference between opposition parties renewed calls for a motion of no confidence, the dissolution of parliament and for national elections to be held early. The Daily Maverick reported that after a nine hour meeting of the ANC, Ramaphosa and ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule conveyed to Zuma that he had until Wednesday 14 February to tender his resignation. On 13 February, the NEC officially announced that they had asked Zuma to resign. They also released a statement detailing their efforts to shorten Zuma’s proposal to resign in three to six months. However, Zuma refused.
On 14 February after a meeting of chief whips, the ANC parliamentary caucus announced that they would agree to pass a motion of no confidence in the president. The vote of no confidence would have been tabled by the EFF and would have taken place on Thursday 15 February during the day. The motion of no confidence would have been Zuma’s 10th motion of no-confidence.
However, at the same time, Zuma spoke to SABC News and said that he had initially agreed to resign but that he wanted to smooth over the transition between him and Ramaphosa, and therefore wanted to stay on as president until after June. However, the ANC’s top six officials rejected his proposal. During this interview Zuma also argued that he did not understand why he was being forced to resign at that moment as no-one could explain to him what he did wrong. Speaking about the recall Zuma said, “I think we’ve been plunged into a crisis that my comrades will come to regret.”
Nonetheless, Zuma resigned just under two hours before the NEC’s deadline. Zuma started off his speech by paying his respects to the ANC as the party that got him to be president and as the liberation party of South Africa. However, he also expressed his regret that party politics is often placed above Constitutional law in the country, saying that “the Constitutional line between Party and State is often forgotten.” He further went on to add that he was saying this not because he was above reproach nor that he was “the epitome of perfection” in undertaking his political responsibilities. Speaking further on the role of the Constitution he said that government should avail themselves to the Constitution even if it means they lose their post-political benefits and that no leader should seek an easy way out because they “could not face life at the end of their terms without the perks that come with political office”. He further added the he feared “no motion of no confidence or impeachment” as they are the lawful mechanisms that the country can use to recall presidents. This led many political analysts to speculate that Zuma was going to face the vote of no confidence the next day. However, he soon after said that he will resign as the President with immediate effect, even though he disagreed with the decision of the ANC leadership, as he has always been a “disciplined member of the ANC”.
The reaction to Zuma’s resignation was generally met with positivity around the country. The Democratic Alliance (DA) rejoiced at the news and DA leader Mmusi Maimane said in a statement late Wednesday that Zuma did “untold harm to our country” and that Zuma will now face the many criminal charges still awaiting him in court.
Julius Malema, party leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the day after Zuma’s resignation, said that they welcomed and claimed responsibility for the former president’s resignation. He further went on to say that Zuma’s “legacy of corruption” is now in the “dustbin of history”. The EFF however called for the dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections as the EFF had no faith in the ANC. Abroad, investor confidence rose with the rand rising as high as R11.66 to the dollar after the resignation, the strongest the rand has been since 2015.
Ramaphosa immediately become acting president after Zuma’s resignation, according to section 90 of the Constitution that says that when there is a vacancy in the office of the president, the first person in line would be the deputy president. Ramaphosa was then sworn in after a vote by the National Assembly on 15 February. Ramaphosa’s first big public event was leading the State of the Nation which took place on 16 February at 7 p.m.
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