Whilst the rest of the world has merely watched Zuma resign and be replaced with ANC favourite Ramaphosa, what news outlets, BBC, CNN and Aljazeera lack is recognition of the brevity and implications of his resignation. This was a day that South Africa, who since Mandela’s term has suffered successive corrupt and ineffective presidents, thought would never come. To an extent, in Zuma’s 9 years it felt as if democracy had degraded, to the point of non-existence, as this February saw his ninth vote of no-confidence.
The fact that he became president in the first place leaves some incredulous. Prior to his election in 2009, he was battling allegations of rape and corruption. Although he was acquitted of raping an HIV positive family-friend, he claimed that he had showered in order to avoid catching HIV – a statement that would become a running joke throughout his presidency. Despite these apparent career-ending scandals Zuma was subsequently elected.
Obviously, his scandals followed him into his presidency with charges of money-laundering and racketeering culminating in a Supreme Court decision to charge Zuma with corruption. However, it is rather his decision to use state funds to upgrade his private residence, which is most telling. This scandal made waves, as even Trevor Noah on The Daily Show referred to the infamous ‘fire pool’. Zuma used government money, upwards of $16million to upgrade his personal home and when defending the decision claimed that his additional pool, was a security measure wherein, if the house caught fire, one could take the water from the said pool and douse it. Thereby it was a matter of the president’s safety. These scandals marred not only Zuma’s presidency but also the ANC-led National Assembly.
Thus, given the exceptionalism of cases, one has to wonder whether Zuma’s resignation was really Democracy at work, given the aforementioned eight votes of no-confidence which proceeded this one.
The African National Congress (ANC) is the only explanation for Zuma’s continued existence in the political sphere. Their greatest opponent, the Democratic Alliance is perceived as the liberal white party. Contrastingly, the ANC continues to be associated with the liberation legacy of Nelson Mandela, Madiba, as such it remains popular among the majority of the populace.
The most recent scandal and one that finally pushed Zuma out was his personal relationship with the Gupta family. In particular, what ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe dubbed the “corporate capture” of government, as their money influenced cabinet appointments and in turn, both parties they benefited from government contracts.
One cannot help but mirror these successive scandals and Zuma’s title as the ‘teflon president’ to that of Donald Trump who continues to dodge impeachment despite his less than presidential behavior. Bill Clinton, who suffered numerous sandals such as the infamous Monica Lewinsky affair, a sexual harassment lawsuit and charges of obstructing justice, was tried for impeachment and subsequently resigned . Contrastingly, Trump’s presidency, one year on, includes scandals of Russian tampering in US elections, allegations of collusion with Jared Kushner, sexual assault claims and a supposed affair with a porn star, all of which have seemingly held no sway in potential impeachment proceedings. Thus, given the exceptionalism of cases, one has to wonder whether Zuma’s resignation was really Democracy at work, given the aforementioned eight votes of no-confidence which proceeded this one.
now that Zexit has finally happened one can only hope that Ramaphosa could potentially redeem the Rainbow Nation and reignite Madiba’s vision.
Regardless, Ramaphosa, who was initially Mandela’s choice as his successor, is the ANC’s ‘prodigal son’. During his State of the Nation Address Ramaphosa, contrastingly to Zuma’s dismissive approach to the prolonged issue of HIV, stated, “I wanna be there when the people win the battle against Aids; I wanna lend a hand; I wanna be there for the victims of violence and abuse; I wanna lend a hand; Send me.” Ramaphosa is imploring the public to trust that he will rid the government of the rampant corruption inherent to Zuma’s presidency. In addition to restoring some much-needed legitimacy to the party by fighting corruption Ramaphosa, who is the epitome of South African capitalism with a net worth of $550 million, is looking to ensure economic growth.
What needs to be recognized is that Ramaphosa is no Messiah, as Zuma too began his term as a ‘people’s president’ and the public should be cautious as to whether he will follow through on his lofty claims. Yet now that Zexit has finally happened one can only hope that Ramaphosa could potentially redeem the Rainbow Nation and reignite Madiba’s vision.