South African President Jacob Zuma resigned after nine years in office on February 14 amid manifold charges of corruption.
Threatened by a vote of no-confidence from Parliament and a total loss of support from his own African National Congress (ANC) party, Zuma announced he was stepping down on February 14, denouncing his party and insisting that he has “always been a disciplined member of the ANC.”
Zuma’s resignation was not a disappointing turn of events for most South Africans. While his election was a source of hope for the country’s poor, his nine years in office have been plagued by continuous accusations of misconduct and corruption.
Just last year, South Africa’s Constitutional Court ordered him to pay back $24 million of public money he had used to renovate his home. Zuma has also been accused of tailoring government policies to benefit friends, family members, and business associates. Perhaps his most infamous scandal is a 1999 arms deal for which he and other party members allegedly received kick-backs.
Simply put, Zuma’s presidency had become a symbol of South Africa’s increasingly corrupt democracy. Overall, the politician survived eight votes of no-confidence before finally succumbing this year to pressures from within his own party.
Cyril Ramaphosa, also of the ANC, immediately replaced Zuma as acting president. His narrow election in December as ANC party leader—previously Zuma’s position—signaled a growing power struggle within the party. Each politician led his own faction until tensions finally culminated with Zuma’s dramatic resignation.
Ramaphosa was a close ally of President Nelson Mandela and is expected to clear the South African cabinet of Zuma loyalists as part of a war on corruption.
At his swearing-in speech on February 15, he elaborated on his goals, saying, “we are determined to build a society defined by decency and integrity, that does not tolerate the plunder of public resources, nor the theft by corporate criminals of the hard-earned savings of ordinary people.”