South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma Has Resigned From Office. This Is Why.

Embattled South African President Jacob Zuma faced mounting pressure from within his own party to step down amid years of allegations of corruption.

South African President Jacob Zuma resigned late Wednesday night, hours away from a deadline given to him by his party earlier this week.

Sumaya Hisham / Reuters

Known as the “teflon president,” the 75-year-old Zuma was first elected in 2009. His party, the African National Congress (ANC), voted on Tuesday to demand Zuma's resignation.

Zuma’s future as president plunged into uncertainty when mounting tensions from various opposition parties prompted him to postpone his State of the Nation speech last week.

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It was the first time a president has had to make such a move since former president Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech in 1994.

Zuma’s tenure over the ANC will probably be remembered for epic allegations of corruption — and the continuing downward spiral of Nelson Mandela’s party.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

While he did champion lifesaving AIDS drugs that his predecessor mocked, the allegations stacked against Zuma are plentiful enough to drag down his reputation. His connections to the wealthy Gupta family have drawn particular scrutiny, with reports alleging that the Indian family profited from his presidency. (Both Zuma and the Gupta brothers have repeatedly denied these reports.)

He also has long-standing allegations of corruption dating back to before his presidency looming over him.

There have also been accusations of rape, with one of the more notable testimonies coming from Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, who wrote a book about her experience and died in 2016.

Despite all this, Zuma survived his sixth no-confidence vote last August.

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But after nearly a decade of his rule, many in the ANC want Zuma out ahead of the 2019 presidential elections, desperate to avoid another experience like the 2016 election. The once-dominant party experienced its worst performance since the end of apartheid in 1994, losing to the Democratic Alliance in the capital Pretoria.

The opportunity to remove Zuma was set in motion in December last year, when party members chose South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as his successor at the top of the party.

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On Sunday, while addressing a crowd that had gathered to celebrate the anniversary of Mandela’s release from prison, Ramaphosa announced that the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) would meet to discuss “the transition to a new administration and specifically the position of the President of the Republic.”

As the leadership of the African National Congress, we are currently engaged in discussions around the transition t…

Ramaphosa did not provide further details on the nature of the meeting, but underscored the urgency with which the party was trying to resolve its issues.

Ramaphosa’s victory as ANC president exposed its internal divisions — the wealthy businessman and pupil of Mandela’s earned only 179 ballots more than his nearest opponent — indicating that the party still has a way to go before presenting a truly united front, and that Zuma’s departure may be neither quick nor quiet.

South African first lady Tobeka Madiba Zuma posted a controversial caption to an Instagram photo of herself with the president, warning, “don’t fight with someone who is not fighting you.”

Earlier this week Mmusi Maimane, leader of the DA who triumphed over the ANC in 2016, called for the immediate removal of Zuma and his “cronies.”

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“We reject any amnesty deal as an insult," he said.

Following Tuesday's ballot, Zuma had 48 hours to respond to the ANC’s call for his resignation.

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If Zuma had refused to accept the party's call, he would have forced parliament to initiate a vote of no confidence — the seventh in his presidency.

Zuma addressed the nation late Friday night, taking to the podium later than planned, and announced that he was resigning "with immediate effect."

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Now that he has accepted, Ramaphosa will be the party's pick to take over.


Cyril Ramaphosa addressed a crowd on the 28th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison. A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that the event was in celebration of what would have been Mandela's 100th birthday.