By Cecilia Godoy
Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, has resigned after days of defying orders from the ruling African National Congress to leave office and on the eve of a no-confidence vote in parliament. In a televised address to the nation, Zuma proclaimed himself a loyal member of the ANC to which he had dedicated his life. The resignation was the conclusion to one of South Africa’s most eventful political days following the raid on a business family at the center of the recent corruption allegations. The President’s resignation took no one by surprise, viewing as there are countless corruption charges mounted against him. Zuma had been negotiating the terms of his departure with Cyril Ramphosa, the current ANC leader.
Zuma grew up during the period of South Africa’s apartheid, where both society and the economy were being warped by the racist policies of a white-minority government who sought to separate, suppress and control the black majority. Being raised by a single mother, he never acquired formal education and joined the military wing if the ANC once he reached his teenage years. Charming and confident, Zuma was always considered incredibly bright and visionary by his counterparts.
Nelson Mandela was a hard act to follow. He and his comrades achieved something that was seemingly impossible, the turning of an institutionally racist state into a non-racial democracy without the outbreak of law. Mandela won the country’s first democratic election in 1994 after several decades of imprisonment. Like few heads of state before him, he served for one term only and graciously retired without compromise the integrity of the democracy he helped build. Zuma ran on a platform of change - one that would allow for greater distribution of wealth and land. Now that South Africa has rid of apartheid, it was time to bridge the huge income gaps between the different racial class and work on the social cohesiveness of the country.
However, Zuma’s legacy will be one ridden with economic stagnation and democratic corruption. Inequality today is worse than it was at the end of apartheid; economic growth has failed to keep pace with population growth; unemployment and crime are sky-high. While the rainbow nation was set up for success, it appears that Zuma’s populist platform led to nothing but utter disappointment, delivery a devastating blow to the credibility of the ANC when it comes to delivery greater equality and rights.
Mandela’s first choice as a successor will now get his turn at the presidency now that Zuma has stepped down. Cyril Ramaphosa, an activist lawyers who remained in South Africa during the apartheid years, has founded and led the first national miners union and then served as a lead negotiator with the outgoing white government in the talks that ended apartheid. There was cheering and singing broke out in the assembly after it was announced that Mr. Ramaphosa was the only nominee for the role. As president, he said his role was to be a “servant of the people of South Africa”, and he would serve with “humility, faithfulness and with dignity as well”.He addressed the issue of corruption in the country, saying “South Africa must come first in everything that we do”.
South Africa must first settle its political crisis in order to gain economic momentum and growth. The president’s resignation also comes at a critical time, viewing as Cape Town will most likely be one of the first major urban centers to run out of water. It is important that Zuma is quickly replaced and sidelined so that the country can move on from this incident as quickly and swiftly as possible.