Cyril Ramaphosa will be sworn in as South Africa’s president on Thursday after the late-night resignation of Jacob Zuma ended a stand-off in the ruling African National Congress.
Mr Ramaphosa, the ANC’s leader who was Mr Zuma’s deputy president, is already acting president, ahead of an election in parliament that is due later in the day.
Mr Zuma’s nine years of scandal-hit rule came to a sudden end on Wednesday as he resigned with immediate effect during a televised address — abruptly reversing course after he had resisted weeks of intense pressure from the ANC to stand aside for Mr Ramaphosa.
The Speaker of South Africa’s National Assembly received Mr Zuma’s letter of resignation on Thursday.
In the face of his defiance, the party had been preparing to vote to remove Mr Zuma through parliament, which would have forced his resignation. To the last, Mr Zuma said that he disagreed with the ANC’s decision to sack him and that the party had not explained why he must go.
The benchmark FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index rose as much as 2.7 per cent on Thursday, its biggest gain since June 2016 in reaction to Mr Zuma standing down. Standard Bank Group, FirstRand and Nedbank Group climbed to all-time highs as the sector index gained as much as 4.6 per cent.
The rand, which has gained ground whenever Mr Zuma hit political turbulence, soared to a near three-year high against the dollar.
Mr Zuma’s exit has been greeted with relief across South African civil society — and anger that it did not come sooner given scandals and allegations of rampant corruption in the state that dogged his presidency.
“If we are to prevent this happening again, it is important that we understand how this monumental heist of a democratic society and a large complex economy happened,” said David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, an NGO.
On the day of Mr Zuma’s resignation the Hawks, an elite anti-corruption unit, raided the Johannesburg home of the Guptas, a business family accused of using a friendship with the president to influence government affairs.
Several arrests were made but local media reported that Atul Gupta, one of the three Indian-born brothers, was on the run, as is Duduzane Zuma, Mr Zuma’s son who is the family’s business partner.
The ANC “should accept as an organisation that we should have given him marching orders a long time ago”, Cheryl Carolus, a veteran of the party, told local radio on Thursday.
Mr Ramaphosa, a former trade unionist turned business tycoon who has pledged to purge graft from government, could be sworn in by South Africa’s chief justice on Thursday as soon as he is elected, Jackson Mthembu, the ANC chief whip, said.
Once elected, Mr Ramaphosa is due on Friday to deliver a state of the nation address that was delayed last week amid the ANC’s infighting, before presiding over a crucial budget next week. Analysts say that he is also likely to replace ministers appointed by Mr Zuma, a difficult task given the divisions exposed in the ANC by the past fortnight’s turmoil.
The Organisation for Undoing Tax Abuse, a group that campaigned against the so-called “state capture” under Mr Zuma, said that Mr Ramaphosa must “move swiftly to reshuffle the cabinet and remove those who were appointed by Zuma for reasons that defy rational reasoning but were clearly appointed to serve his own interests”.
In connection with Wednesday’s raids linked to the Guptas, five individuals will appear in court on Thursday on charges of money laundering, corruption and theft of state funds, a Hawks spokesperson said.
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