Jacob Zuma has been forced to resign as President of South Africa. Photo:  Reuters / Siphiwe Sibeko
Jacob Zuma has been forced to resign as President of South Africa. Photo: Reuters / Siphiwe Sibeko

It was the dawn of a new era. Today, South Africans awoke to a nation without Jacob Zuma as president for the first time in nine years. After months of political infighting, the scandal-plagued head of state was forced to resign on orders from the ruling African National Congress or ANC.

“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 in a prepared statement.

“I am forever grateful that they trusted me with their highest office in the land. But when I accepted the deployment, I undertook to subject myself to the supreme law of the land, the Constitution,” he added.

Reaction to the news was swift. “Defiant in defeat” and “Going, Going, Gone” were some of the newspaper headlines that captured his decision to step down.

Acting president Cyril Ramaphosa now looks certain to be confirmed as his permanent successor in a parliamentary vote, according to senior ANC lawmaker Jackson Mthembu.

“He’s a good man,” Gwede Dube, 39, a carpenter told The Guardian as he queued in central Johannesburg for an overcrowded minibus to return to his home on the distant outskirts.

Still, the road back to prosperity and self-respect under Ramaphosa, who took over as head of the ANC in December, will be long and arduous for a nation divided by race and inequality.

At least the rand currency, which has gained ground whenever Zuma hit political turbulence, soared to a near three-year high against the dollar on his resignation.

“One chapter in South Africa’s political soap-opera has finally ended with the resignation last night of President Jacob Zuma,” NKC African Economics analysts wrote in a note.

“It would be gratifying to see the dedication and purpose the ANC put into ridding itself of Zuma now be directed into rebuilding the economy, dealing with the corruption still residing in the ANC and improving its shoddy governance record.”

Zuma’s resignation came just hours after police raided the luxury home of the Gupta family, the Indian-born billionaire allies of the former president, on Wednesday.

They have been accused of using their close friendship with the president to wield enormous political influence, allegations which the Guptas and Zuma have always denied.

“The ANC extends its gratitude to President Zuma for having served the country in this capacity for the last nine years, particularly for the contribution he has made to progress in improving the lives of ordinary South Africans,” the ANC said in a statement.

Sugary sentiments, but certainly not the last words in the Zuma saga, which is set to rumble on.

– with Reuters