Johannesburg, Feb 15: With the ruling African National Congress (ANC) planning to side with opposition parties in Parliament, South African President Jacob Zuma resigned from the position today.
Zuma's resignation comes three days after the ANC's national leadership decided at a marathon meeting in the early hours of Monday to ask him to resign, which he had defiantly refused.
"I resign as President of the Republic (of South Africa) with immediate effect," Zuma said in a nationally-televised broadcast, ending a nine-year tenure before his second and final term of office which was scheduled to end with national elections in 2019.
But he remained adamant that the decision of the ANC to replace him with Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected in his place as the new President of the ANC two months ago, was "wrong".
"I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, (but) I have always been a disciplined member of the organisation," Zuma said, pledging to continue to serve the political organisation he had joined as a teenager to fight from exile against the minority white apartheid government.
Commenting on the unprecedented possibility of him being removed through action by his own party in Parliament if he did not resign, Zuma said: "I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment. They are the lawful mechanisms for the people of this beautiful country to remove their president."
Zuma, 75, has previously survived several motions of no confidence by opposition parties in the past. Deputy President Ramaphosa is now expected to take over as the interim President until the process of appointing a new President is concluded through the parliamentary process. Political analysts pointed out that Zuma now had the dubious distinction of being the only politician in democratic South Africa to have been ousted from the position of both deputy president and president of the country.
In 2005, then President Thabo Mbeki, dismissed Zuma as his deputy in the light of rape charges that Zuma was facing. Zuma was later acquitted of the charges. Although Zuma claimed earlier in the day that he had tried to stop others orchestrating Mbeki's surprise recall in 2008, his once strongest supporter and now arch foe and leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party Julius Malema said Zuma was behind Mbeki's removal so that he could take over as the President.
Zuma's resignation has been met with jubilation across South Africa by business, civil society organisations and the citizenry, all of whom had united in their efforts to remove him from office. Zuma had ingratiated himself by arbitrarily dismissing effective ministers and bringing about a huge economic crisis as a result. He also stands accused of having been influenced by various people to appoint people to ministerial positions and as heads of parastatal bodies who would support state capture plans and corrupt activities to syphon of billions of rand of public money.