Updated 6:15 p.m. EDT, February 14
South Africa President Jacob Zuma resigned from office on Wednesday, ending a standoff with leaders in his own African National Congress party.
“I resign as president of the republic with immediate effect, even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation,” Zuma said at a globally televised press conference.
Top leaders in South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) Party want to remove the country’s corrupt president, a move that would restore the reputation of Nelson Mandela’s party.
The downfall of South Africa President Jacob Zuma has been painful to watch. Zuma, a hero in the battle against Apartheid, was imprisoned on Robben Island in 1963 with Mandela. This attempt to oust Zuma, 75, comes as he faces multiple corruption charges that tarnishes a political party that was a beacon of hope in Africa among the continent’s corrupt governments.
With Zuma at the helm, the country is often seen—at best—as one of the least corrupt countries in Africa. A survey put Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, at the top of the list of governments worldwide that are perceived as corrupt. Ghana, Angola and Kenya also placed in the top 10.
Zuma defied an order on Tuesday from party officials to resign from office, triggering a political crisis. Under pressure from party leaders, he agreed to resign—but under his own timetable. However, the officials, including the presumptive new president Cyril Ramaphosa, demanded his immediate departure after an extensive party leadership meet that ended early Tuesday.
This standoff was expected after the ANC’s secretary-general, Ace Magashule, announced on Tuesday that Zuma rejected the National Executive Committee’s authority to remove him, according to the BBC.
The list of charges against Zuma includes fraud, racketeering and money laundering from a multi-billion dollar arms deal in 1999. More recently, the country’s highest court ruled that he breached his oath of office by using government money to upgrade his private estate.
Politically, Zuma’s scandals are dragging down the ANC’s popularity, adding to the disappointment many Black South Africans feel toward the ANC’s failure to improve their lives. South Africans have protested not only to demand jobs but also to protest government under Zuma’s regime. Still, Zuma has supporters who want the party to allow him to complete his term in office. The two factions have squared off in the streets against each other.