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Winners and Losers of Zuma’s Retirement


Winners and Losers of Zuma’s Retirement

Last week, South African president Jacob Zuma resigned a few days after he had originally defied calls for his resignation from the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party in the South Africa. There were increasing rifts between Zuma and his party over his mismanagement of the country’s affairs, rising inflation, and consistent allegations of corruption. This piece will explore who were the winners and losers from Zuma’s departure from office.

Win for South African Democracy

The big winner in this whole affair is South African democracy. For a leader as powerful as Zuma to resign and not offer a stronger resistance was remarkable. It is very rare for leadership in Africa to transition without mass protests or some violence. What appears to have prompted his resignation was the ANCs threat to vote against Zuma in a vote of confidence in parliament if he did not resign. Additionally, his resignation came on the same day as the raid of an influential business family with close ties to Zuma. Potentially fearing the major fallout if the story played out in the media (the fourth estate of democracy), Zuma resigned shortly after originally standing his ground saying that he wouldn’t.

Win for Ramaphosa and the ANC

Zuma’s resignation is a win for the ANC. The general elections in South Africa are coming up in 2019 and with Zuma’s popularity dwindling and the ANC suffering major losses in the recent municipal elections (primarily linked to Zuma’s popularity), the ANC was keen to depose of its longtime leader fearing an electoral defeat or a potential coalition government. The reputation of the ANC had been significantly damaged by Zuma being at its helm. The recent threat of not supporting him in a vote of confidence was the final step after removing him as party president last year.

It is particularly opportune for Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s most-likely replacement. As deputy president, his party was keen to rally around a leader to project a strong image for the country before the elections. Ramaphosa was this person. He additionally, has a business background and can project himself as someone who could potentially tackle the country’s economic problems.

Win for the South African People?

While there is sense of excitement in South Africa with Zuma’s departure, an air of skepticism also persists. Yes, the corrupt leader is no longer at the helm of affairs but the systems that led to his rise and dominance remain.  Ramaphosa after all is from the same party (the ANC) and additionally, has the baggage of the Marikana Massacre, when he was in charge of South Africa’s mines which saw police open fire on 34 miners who were striking. However, for now the sense of elation continues as there is a perception that anyone would be better than Zuma for South Africa.

Loss for Zuma

With more than 7,000 cases of corruption and graft against him, and having survived a dozen votes of confidence in Parliament, Zuma’s presidency was always living on borrowed time. During his presidency, he had usurped power in ways that dictators do. At many stages in his career, he undermined democratic systems and had stolen public money for himself. In light of new revelations of his relationship with the Gupta family which has recently come to light, Zuma will likely spend the rest of his life facing corruption charges and having to answer for his actions which plagued his presidency and marred the name of the ANC.

Image Credit: CC by Zuma/Wikimedia Commons

M. Sudhir Selvaraj

M. Sudhir Selvaraj writes the Weekly Security Brief for GCN. He is a fellow with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. His interests lie in security of religious minorities, secularism, U.S. foreign policy and politics of South Asia. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at King’s College London. He has a master’s (with distinction) in International Relations from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and graduated cum laude (with honors) from Concordia College, Minnesota with majors in Political Science and Global Studies and a minor in Business.

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