Former president Zuma turns 76 — with a stormy year ahead of him
This day last year was bittersweet for former president Jacob Zuma because while the ANC rolled out the green and yellow carpet and threw a big bash for his 75th birthday‚ scores of South Africans took to the streets‚ calling for his downfall.
An unfazed Zuma used the occasion to cement his position as the country’s head and eased the concern of his supporters amid growing calls for his removal.
A confident and cool Zuma gave a lengthy address at his party in Klipspruit‚ Soweto‚ in which he brushed off calls by the opposition for him to step down. In closing his lengthy birthday speech‚ Zuma said he would be willing to step down only if that was what the ANC wanted.
"Even if you tell me to resign tomorrow‚ I’ll do so without any animosity‚" he said in Zulu.
He assured the crowd that he would lead the country until the end of his term in 2019‚ but was ready to vacate his position as the ANC head by December‚ referring to the party’s elective conference in Nasrec‚ Johannesburg.
However‚ Zuma did not see his birthday declaration come to pass.
In February this year‚ just two months after Cyril Ramaphosa was appointed as head of the ANC‚ Zuma pleaded with the ANC to give him reasons it wanted him off the presidential seat before the end of his term.
In an exclusive interview with the SABC a calm-looking Zuma said his political party had not given him reasons for its decision to recall him. "I need to be furnished with what is it that I have done‚ and unfortunately nobody has been able to tell me what is it that I’ve done. There are processes in the ANC that need to be followed if I have been doing something wrong."
He resigned later that night.
"I resign as president of the Republic with immediate effect‚" he said‚ "even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation … I have always been a disciplined member of the organisation ... As I leave‚ I will continue to serve the people of SA as well as the ANC."
Ramaphosa succeeded him as President.
At his birthday bash in 2017‚ Zuma issued a warning to whoever would fill his position‚ saying that‚ in time‚ his successor would face as much criticism as he had while in office.
On his 76th birthday on Thursday‚ Zuma‚ who was fresh from a brief appearance in the High Court in Durban on Friday where he faced corruption charges relating to the arms deal‚ was all smiles as dozens of ANC Women’s League members broke into song at the launch of the league’s Molo Makhelwane campaign in KwaMashu‚ outside Durban.
The campaign‚ which promotes social cohesion and unity based on knowing your neighbour‚ was launched in tribute to the "undying spirit" of the late struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Zuma is expected to speak at a memorial service for Madikizela-Mandela at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
Meanwhile‚ birthday messages continue to stream in on social media for the former president‚ who some have dubbed the King of Controversy.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela‚ who also sent greetings to Zuma on his birthday‚ courted controversy with her "happy birthday" tweet when she wished him blessings in the year ahead. EFF leader Julius Malema thanked Madonsela for the tweet‚ saying she was "the best".
Madonsela‚ along with other Twitter users‚ also sent well wishes to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan‚ who shares a birthday with Zuma.