JOHANNESBURG — South African President Jacob Zuma resigned on Wednesday in a televised address to the nation, avoiding his almost certain ouster in a parliamentary vote scheduled for Thursday after years of corruption scandals.
Zuma’s resignation came after the ruling African National Congress party instructed him to leave office by the end of Wednesday or face the motion of no confidence in parliament. His departure ended a leadership crisis in one of Africa’s biggest economies and set the stage for ruling party lawmakers to elect acting president Cyril Ramaphosa, previously deputy president, as Zuma’s successor.
“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect,” said Zuma, who added that he took the decision even though he disagreed with the ruling party’s demand that he quit. Zuma, 75, had said he was willing to resign but wanted to stay in office for several more months.
“Of course, 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,” Zuma said.
The former president was defiant in a television interview earlier Wednesday, saying he had done nothing wrong.
“I’m being victimized here,” Zuma told state broadcaster SABC. He complained that Ramaphosa and other ANC leaders had not given him clear reasons about why he should go.
“I need to be furnished on what I’ve done,” Zuma said in the interview.
On Wednesday morning, police raided the home of prominent business associates of Zuma who are accused of being at the center of corruption scandals that have infuriated the country, hurt the ANC’s popularity and weakened the economy. An elite police unit entered the compound of the Gupta family, which has been accused of using its connections to the president to influence Cabinet appointments and win state contracts. The Guptas deny any wrongdoing.
Several people were arrested during police operations, South African media reported.
The ANC, which has led South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994, had wanted Zuma to end his second five-year term early so that it could build up support ahead of 2019 elections.
“We can no longer keep South Africa waiting,” said Paul Mashatile, the ANC’s treasurer general.
Ramaphosa, elected as the ANC’s new leader in December, has said the government will do more to fight the corruption that has damaged the ANC.
As the Gupta-linked investigation proceeds, Zuma also could face corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago. South Africa’s chief prosecutor is expected to make a decision on whether to prosecute Zuma on the old charges, which were reinstated last year after being thrown out in 2009.
In another scandal, South Africa’s top court ruled in 2016 that Zuma violated the constitution following an investigation of multi-million-dollar upgrades to his private home using state funds. He paid back some of the money.