Jacob Zuma resigned as president of South Africa on Wednesday night in an extraordinary turnaround of events, having earlier insisted he would be defying pressure from within his own party for him to step down.
In a televised live address to the nation he said he had to accept the ruling ANC party’s wishes for him to leave office a day before a no confidence motion was set to bring his nine-year tenure to a premature end amid a cloud of corruption allegations.
Mr Zuma’s announcement came after he appeared defiant in front of the cameras earlier in the day, telling reporters he didn’t believe it was “fair” that the ANC had requested he step down.
His resignation ended a 30-minute speech in his second television appearance of the day, in which the 75-year-old said he still disagreed with the way the ANC had shoved him towards an early exit after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as party president in December.
“I have served the people of South Africa to the best of my ability. I am forever grateful they trusted me with their highest office of the land,” Mr Zuma said.
Mr Zuma added that he was concerned about violence breaking out between ANC members as the party grew more divided.
At his earlier television appearance he had said he didn’t know why South Africa’s ruling party had ordered him to step down from his job before his term is up next year, and warned that the leaders forcing him out would come to regret their actions.
“It’s the first time I’ve felt an African National Congress decision is not right,” the long-time ANC member and anti-apartheid struggle veteran said in a televised interview on the public broadcaster on Wednesday. “I don’t think it is fair.”