Jacob Zuma steps down: Impact and analysis
16 Feb 2018

After wrestling for days to stay on a little bit longer, Jacob Zuma has finally succumbed to his party’s orders to resign.

Zuma, who came into power in 2009, had become a liability for the ruling African National Congress party (ANC), whose waning popularity was exhibited by its poor performance in local elections, amongst other factors.

In recent days the ANC’s national executive council (NEC) recalled him, ordered him to quit immediately, but he refused, saying he wished to leave after three to six months, to allow for transition.

However the party insisted he go and he eventually resigned, saying in his departure speech:

“It is indeed true that there was an agreement, that even if the need arises that I should vacate the office before the end of term, there is a need to have a period of transition, during which I would delegate some of the functions to the Deputy President of the Republic.

“I must accept that if my Party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office, they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the Constitution.

“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as President of the Republic with immediate effect. Even though I disagree with the decision of the Leadership of my organization, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC.”

A statement on the presidency website announced a raft of accomplishments made during Zuma’s tenure, including a brief section on the fight against corruption.

It mentioned that Jacob Zuma had appointed an inquiry into state capture. What it omitted, of-course, was that Zuma was central to the state capture issue.

His nine year rule was tainted by reports of corruption and scandal, especially his association with the Guptas, a wealthy family which is understood to have had wielded much influence over the pubic and private sector.

The Guptas feature prominently in the Bell Pottinger and KPMG troubles as well as the HSBC money laundering allegations, which are now being investigated in the United Kingdom.

Zuma and the Guptas deny the allegations of corruption.

Should the party have recalled Zuma sooner, why did he stay in power this long, what message does it give to other African leaders and what is the impact of his corruption scandals?

Analysts explain:

DOMESTIC FRONT: Johannesburg-based Dr Adrian Saville, CEO, Cannon Asset Managers

Jacob Zuma stepping down is not the end of the problem – he was not the only problem.

We have widespread evidence of state capture in South Africa, this is about a large, rent-seeking machinery that has been built around him and it helped protect him.

That very machinery reaches into the public and private sectors.

Whilst there is a temptation to see the removal of Zuma as a silver bullet, the issues are far from resolved.

Recalling Zuma is unequivocally a step in the right direction to getting South Africa back on track, but in terms of getting to resolution things remain a long way from resolved.

This dallying on the part of the ANC aggravates the circumstance in which, as a party, the ANC has been derelict in its duty in allowing Zuma to stay in power for so long and not removing him sooner.

He should have been recalled years ago, indeed very early in his presidency when it became clear that he was a liability to the party and the country, and not in January 2018 on the back of a change of party leadership.

Foreign investment is critical to South Africa, but so is domestic investment. Under Zuma’s presidency, figures show domestic investment has slumped.

The negative news and commentary that was often made about South Africa would have also likely deterred foreign investment.

We have had under Jacob Zuma a decade of growing investor suspicion and uncertainty that has damaged sentiment.

However six weeks after the national ANC meeting, where the new President, Cyril Ramaphosa, was elected as the party’s new leader, there are positive signs that investor sentiment is picking up.

The rand has gained by almost two rand against the dollar and a two-year outflow of foreign portfolio investments in equities of R200bn has been replaced by a six week inflow of foreign capital of R30bn into equities.

REGIONAL FRONT: Harare-based Masimba Kuchera, analyst

Jacob Zuma’s corruption issues affect the whole of southern Africa, and not just South Africa.

Generally, his conduct does not do any good for the region, which is battling with the issue of corruption.

South Africa is the biggest economy in the region with an economic footprint in countries like Lesotho and Swaziland whose economies depend on goods from South Africa.

From what we know, the South Africans are still investigating the extent of Zuma’s corruption, but maybe some of these companies exporting goods from South Africa got their licences through corruption, in which case corruption was exported out of South Africa too.

It also affects the branding issue – it taints the South Africa brand with corruption.

Is Africa too kind to corrupt leaders? The problem is not the Africans themselves, the ordinary people, but that Africa’s leaders are not accountable to their people.

This is because we don’t have a strong civil society, and we have a weak judiciary, which is normally controlled by the ruling party anyway.

The Jacob Zuma case will not be taken as a lesson to African leaders, corrupt leaders will not be afraid – the lesson in their eyes is not that if you are corrupt you go, but rather if you impose a two-term limit on your rule there will be problems.

In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe had a negotiated exit with Zanu PF, the ANC also talked with Zuma to go. The political parties are not calling for them to be tried for corruption.

They are kind and protective towards their corrupt leaders. The ANC has been protective of him i.e. it did not call for him to face corruption charges, most probably to minimize division within the party.

It performed poorly in last year’s municipal elections so they need to put up a united front. However in South Africa, they have a stronger judiciary and public prosecutor, and even if Zuma wanted to finish his current term he would have still have had his day in court.

– Irene Madongo

Read More:

New corruption trouble for President Zuma – can he still duck and dive?

South Africa’s ANC elects new leader – will Ramaphosa be ‘another lame duck?’

South Africa corruption: Elite police swoop on ‘Gupta home’

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