Jacob Zuma’s nine-year tenure as president of South Africa is over. In a speech televised live on Wednesday night, Zuma announced his resignation with immediate effect. But in true Msholozi style, even the verbal path to announcing his departure was far from straightforward. By REBECCA DAVIS/Daily Maverick
The Jacob Zuma who appeared before the nation in a bizarre TV interview with the SABC on Wednesday afternoon was nowhere to be seen when another Jacob Zuma took to the podium at the Union Buildings, roughly seven hours later.The Zuma we saw in the SABC interview was tense and angry, railing against the injustice of the ANC’s decision to recall him and reiterating his refusal to leave office.The Zuma who addressed South Africa on Thursday night entered in a seemingly relaxed mood, even joking with journalists beforehand: “Why do you look so serious? You can’t even say good evening!”
Whatever happened in the intervening hours between the two appearances was clearly sufficient to change Zuma’s mind: to convince him that leaving office via a resignation, rather than by means of a humiliating parliamentary ejection, was the better course of action.
There was not much on offer in his address in the way of summing up his presidential legacy, beyond an acknowledgement of his own imperfection.“None of us, no matter how perfect, can claim that the building of a new society and the marshalling of a former liberation movement into a modern political party all happen in a straight line,” Zuma said.Nonetheless: “I have served the people of South Africa to the best of my ability.”Zuma concluded his speech with thanks to South Africans and government. Leaving the podium, he had a special parting message for journalists:
Unlike Zuma’s speech, the message in the ANC statement was clear: it’s time for this period of publicly airing dirty laundry to end immediately. Zuma, it is now evident, will be treated by the ANC at least superficially with the respect due any outgoing leader.