Jacob Zuma addresses the nation on Wednesday night. Picture: GCIS
Jacob Zuma addresses the nation on Wednesday night. Picture: GCIS

President Jacob Zuma has resigned.

Since he was fired as deputy president in 2005, he has been the single most influential, divisive and controversial figure in post-apartheid South African politics.

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa is now poised to take over from Zuma, without his predecessor facing the humiliation of a motion of no confidence in Parliament, scheduled for Thursday.

The rand strengthened to R11.66 against the dollar while Zuma addressed the nation, but weakened marginally to about R11.70 by the time he finished speaking. The rand also strengthened against the euro, reaching a level of R14.50.

Zuma said he had served at the behest of the ANC, that he still believed he should be removed via Parliamentary processes, but that he was resigning anyway.

Defiant to the end, he said he did not fear a motion of no confidence or impeachment, but he did not want violence in his name or to divide the 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.

“I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment, for they are the lawful mechanisms for the people of this beautiful country to remove their president,” he said.

Zuma said he did not fear leaving political office. “The ANC should never be divided in my name, I have therefore come to the decision to resign,” he said in an address to the nation late on Wednesday.

Zuma said he had served as president “in the prism” of the country’s “much acclaimed Constitution”.

His address was televised nationally, drawing to a close his tumultuous nine years in office.

President Jacob Zuma resigned as leader of South Africa on Feburary 14 2018 during a televised address to the nation. Subscribe to TimesLIVE here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TimesLive

Zuma stepped down after political parties in Parliament agreed, in an unprecedented fashion, to remove him in the motion of no confidence — and also after the ANC took a decision to recall him from office on Monday.

It has been a tumultuous 48 hours for SA, with uncertainty over whether Zuma would relinquish power.

Negotiations on his exit and the “transition” to a new presidency have been under discussion since Ramaphosa won the ANC presidency at the party’s conference in December.

Zuma is the second post-democratic president to be recalled from office.

Zuma, in an interview with the SABC earlier in the day, said he still did not know what he had done wrong to warrant his removal from office. He indicated at about 2pm that he would not resign, but some eight hours later changed his stance.

Now that Zuma has agreed to resign he will have to inform the National Assembly Speaker of his decision. The National Assembly will sit and the letter will be read out to members and has to be accepted by the House — it is likely to be accepted.

A new president is elected by the National Assembly via secret ballot and if there is a vacancy because of a resignation a new head of state needs to be elected within 30 days. Because Zuma has resigned it means the Cabinet he appointed can stay in place. Ramaphosa, as the deputy president, becomes the acting president until Parliament elects a new president.

LISTEN: Full Statement - President Jacob Zuma resigns

If Zuma had been removed through a motion of no confidence, as had been tabled for Thursday, the Cabinet would have had to resign.

The ANC has already said that it will be nominating Ramaphosa to take over from Zuma.

Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is likely to take over from Ramaphosa as deputy president of the country.

A cabinet reshuffle is on the cards, but it is not certain whether this will happen before next week’s budget address — which is expected to be delivered by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.

It is speculated that Gigaba as well as Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, Energy Minister David Mahlobo and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini are to be among the ministers who may be removed in a coming cabinet shake-up.