The resignation of South Africa’s embattled President Jacob Zuma yesterday from office coinciding with news that Zimbabwe’s main long time opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai has died in South Africa, has signaled significant power shake-ups in southern Africa
A senior official in Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has confirmed Mr. Tsvangirai, 65, the country’s former prime minister, had reportedly suffered from colon cancer prior to his death late yesterday.
Earlier, the BBC reported that Jacob Zuma’s governing African National Congress (ANC) party called on him to step down or face a vote of no confidence in parliament.
The 75-year-old had been under increasing pressure to give way to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC’s new leader.
Mr. Zuma, who has been in power since 2009, faces numerous allegations of corruption.
His resignation yesterday came at the end of a long speech in which he expressed his disagreement with the way the ANC had acted towards him.
He said he did not fear a motion of no-confidence, adding, “I have served the people of South Africa to the best of my ability.”
‘Disciplined ANC member’ Mr. Zuma also said that violence and division within the ANC had influenced his decision to step down, noting, “no life should be lost in my name and also the ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect.”
“Even though I disagreed with the decision of the leadership of my organization, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC,” Zuma said, adding, “as I leave, I will continue to serve the people of South Africa as well as the ANC, the organization I have served… all of my life.”
Shortly after he resigned, the ANC issued a statement saying Mr. Zuma’s resignation provided “certainty to the people of South Africa.”
ANC’s Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte, told reporters, “President Zuma remains a principled member of the party, and that the party wants to salute the outstanding contribution he has made.”
Mr. Zuma, a former member of the ANC’s military wing in the days of apartheid, rose through the ranks of the party to become President.
He led the country for more than a third of its time after apartheid, but left office with several scandals hanging over him, and with South Africa’s economy in dire straits.
What led to Zuma’s resignation?
A meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee had announced its decision to recall Mr. Zuma on Tuesday and gave him until the end of Wednesday to resign.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu, then announced a motion of no-confidence would be heard on Thursday, with Mr. Ramaphosa sworn in as president as soon as possible after that.
Mr. Zuma’s resignation capped a day of fast-moving events. It began with early morning police raids and arrests at the Johannesburg home of his close associates, the wealthy, Indian-born Gupta family.
The Guptas have been accused of using their close friendship with the former President to wield enormous political influence.
Both parties denied all allegations of wrongdoing. Mr .Zuma made no reference to the raid when he held a lengthy, unannounced, interview with national broadcaster SABC hours later.
In a related development, Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai died yesterday in South Africa, a senior official in his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party has said.
Mr. Tsvangirai, 65, a former prime minister, had reportedly suffered from colon cancer. “He died this evening. The family communicated this to me,” MDC vice president Elias Mudzuri told Reuters late yesterday.
Tsvangirai’s career was marked by a long political struggle against former President Robert Mugabe. He had been beaten and imprisoned numerous times.
Mr. Mudzuri who announced Mr. Tsvangirai’s death, said on Twitter that the MDC had “lost our icon and fighter for democracy.”
Tsvangirai founded the MDC in 2000, repeatedly challenging Mr. Mugabe during the ex-president’s long grip on power.
Brave and charismatic Morgan Tsvangirai was an incredibly brave man who risked his life to stand up to the authoritarian rule of Robert Mugabe, the BBC has reported.
He did not succeed in ousting Mr. Mugabe – due to the intimidation of his supporters and some blatant rigging – but Tsvangirai did at least live to see the downfall of his long-time rival.
Although he was obviously very sick, he even traveled home from South Africa, where he was being treated for colon cancer.
But in purely political terms, Mr. Mugabe always managed to get the better of the charismatic former union leader – especially when he was prime minister and they were supposedly sharing power.
Some of his ex-comrades in the MDC, which he founded, accused him of dictatorial tendencies and the party split several times.
With the death of Tsvangirai, the MDC will now have the formidable task of trying to unite and mount a credible challenge to Mr. Mugabe’s successor Emmerson Mnangagwa in this year’s elections.
In the 2008 election, Mr. Tsvangirai gained the most votes in the first round, but not enough to win outright. Before the second round of voting, Mr. Mugabe’s security forces carried out a campaign of violence against opposition supporters, and Tsvangirai withdrew.
Mugabe was declared the winner, but an international outcry over allegations of violence and vote-rigging led to a power sharing agreement in which Tsvangirai would serve as prime minister.
Mr. Tsvangirai ran against Mugabe again in 2013, but lost by a landslide. The MDC is said to be divided over who should lead it into elections later this year against the governing Zanu-PF party, led by Mr. Mnangagwa.