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South African President Jacob Zuma says he has resigned “with immediate effect.” The scandal-tainted leader made the announcement late Wednesday in a televised address to the nation.
Time

JOHANNESBURG — South African President Jacob Zuma resigned Wednesday, putting an end to a scandal-tinged rule that ended with the ruling African National Congress party ordering him to step down.

Zuma, 75, made the announcement in a televised address to the nation, saying he stepped down despite disagreeing with the decision by the African National Congress (ANC) to leave office immediately.  

“Of course, I must accept that if my party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office, they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the constitution,” Zuma said.

The ANC expressed gratitude for Zuma’s “loyal service” and encouraged party members to support Cyril Ramaphosa, who is now the country’s acting president. Ramaphosa is expected to be elected swiftly in a parliament vote and sworn in as leader of one of Africa’s biggest economies. 

Zuma said earlier that he’s done nothing wrong and resisted the party’s push to resign. That set the stage for his almost certain removal in a parliamentary vote scheduled for Thursday.

More: South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma’s resigns: Here’s what you need to know

“I’m being victimized here,” Zuma said, complaining that Ramaphosa and other party leaders had not given him clear reasons why he should leave.

Zuma, who took office in 2009, has been embroiled in corruption scandals throughout most of his two terms. Late last year, South Africa’s top court ruled that he violated the constitution when he paid for multimillion-dollar upgrades to his private home with state funds.

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A judicial commission could soon begin to examine allegations of influence peddling and illegal contracts to Zuma cronies, including the Gupta family. Prosecutors are also mulling reviving corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago.

On Wednesday, police raided the Gupta family’s Johannesburg residence, with five arrests in connection with looting of state funds, according to Johannesburg’s City Press newspaper.

Corruption scandals involving Zuma have sunk the popularity of the ANC, which holds stature as a key player that fought white minority rule and is credited with the dismantling of apartheid in 1991.

“He has really put the country in a state of turmoil,” said Kealan Anderson, 25, a fiber optic technician in Johannesburg. “It will be the best interest of the country for him to not be in charge.”

Politicians from the party are looking to next year’s elections, and worried about the corruption probes.

“There is a question of the next election and people retaining their jobs but it’s also (about law enforcement) now starting to move forward on prosecutions and arrests,” said Ebrahim Fakir, a political researcher and commentator here. “There are two fears — a loss of support and also the shame and embarrassment of your people being caught out.” 

Some voters, like Zubair Rwat, 40, said they will take a wait-and-see approach.

“This was simply the start of the ANC election campaign — a good start nonetheless,” said Rawat, 40, an anesthesiologist in Johannesburg. “But to get my vote I want them all to be prosecuted and all the money retrieved.”

Zuma still has allies, especially in his home state of Kwazulu-Natal. And his legacy as a freedom fighter is revered. Zuma has been part of the ANC for almost six decades and led the intelligence arm of the movement’s underground military wing. He was jailed for 10 years on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela, the country’s first black president, was also held.

The ANC paid tribute to Zuma’s legacy.

“Having taken the difficult decision to recall Comrade Jacob Zuma, the African National Congress nonetheless wants to salute the outstanding contribution he has made and express its profound gratitude to him for the role he has played in the African National Congress spanning over sixty years of loyal service,” the party said in a statement.

Fakir pointed out that instead of a coup, Zuma was forced out of office by the rule of law without violence.

“His resignation makes us exceptional on the African continent,” he said. ”   “Zuma saved himself but it did show that if refused to go, the party, parliament and the constitution would have kicked in its safeguards.” 

Dana Toerien, 26, a scriptwriter in Johannesburg, is cautiously optimistic about the future. “We need to see action rather than words before we can make any concrete judgments.”

“We need to see action rather than words before we can make any concrete judgments.”

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