The reign and resignation of Jacob Zuma

Jacob Zuma

The election of Cyril Ramphosa as the new leader of the African National Congress last year was the beginning of the end. It has taken about two months for Jacob Zuma to bow to pressure and resign or face an embarrassing dethronement from the ANC.

Mr Zuma has been in power since 2009 after replacing Thabo Mbeki as the country’s president in similar circumstances of resignation. Myriads of corruption scandals have been a prominent feature in the country over the past 9 years, including an actual judicial indictment of Zuma enriching his estates with State funds


Mr Zuma was well received as South Africa’s new leader in 2009, and was in the global spotlight with the hosting of the 2010 World Cup, the first to be hosted in an African nation. Things began to fall dramatically out of place after Zuma assumed the de facto leadership of the ANC after the passing of Nelson Mandela in December 2012, effectively arrogating to himself invincibility embellished with corruption.

A former spy chief, Zuma tapped into his connections both locally and internationally, not in favour of the continuing the much needed developmental drives required to rebuild South Africa, but to accrue personal wealth and entrench himself as king within the ten-year period he would have. Mr Zuma’s biggest ally in his racket was the Gupta family with whom he had done business in the 1990s. The scandal involving the Guptas roped in and crashed UK Public Relations firm Bell Pottinger whose job it had been to incite racist and xenophobic campaigns in South Africa. Professional services firm KPMG also had to dismiss some of its chiefs in the country after being tainted in the scandal.

The country’s economy tailed off and the ANC became more fractured than it had ever been. The fallout over the years have seen locals turn on foreign nationals like Nigerians in Xenophobic attacks, while the country generally regressed.


The Zuma ties with corruption stretched beyond South Africa as Zimbabweans had much to regret about the now former South African leader’s tenure. Mr Zuma effectively provided regular cover for Robert Mugabe and his family. The immunity granted by the Zuma government to Mrs Grace Mugabe after allegedly attacking a model who had been partying with one of her sons raised widespread criticism from both South Africans and Zimbabweans. There have been many accusations that the Zuma government has been complicit in the impoverishment of Zimbabweans by the Mugabes.


Like Mugabe, Zuma will be replaced temporarily by the new leader of his party, Cyril Ramphosa. In his resignation speech, Zuma did emphasize his disagreement with the decision of the leadership of his party but ultimately decided that it would not be worthy for any blood to be spilled in his name. It does not seem as if he will be on the run, though, stressing his commitment to continue being of service to South Africans.

Mr Ramphosa will hold fort as the new president till the 400-member National Assembly votes for a permanent replacement within 30 days, in the absence of which another election will be called. It however appears very likely that Mr Ramphosa will be approved by the nation’s legislators.

Zuma’s exit has already started reflecting positively on the South African economy with South African stocks gaining the most since June 2016 and the rand at its strongest against the dollar since 2015, according to Bloomberg.

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