“Zexit:” 48 Hours Left

President Jacob Zuma has been given 48 hours to resign as South Africa’s President by the National Executive Committee (NEC). The NEC is a branch of the leading party, the African National Congress (ANC). According to the BBC, this ultimatum has been christened “Zexit” by the South African media. Many believe his resignation is inevitable, but Zuma is not legally obliged to step down from his nine-year presidency. Therefore, as a man who has denied all corruption allegations and previously rejected any negotiations of an early resignation, he will likely reject the NEC’s request by the deadline of midnight Wednesday 14th. If this happens, he will face a vote of no confidence in Parliament. According to The Telegraph, he will likely lose given the ANC holds a 62 percent majority. Nevertheless, Zuma survived the most recent vote of no confidence in August 2017, 198 votes to 177.

Zuma’s decision is very important given the current state of South Africa’s second largest city, Cape Town. It is currently in the midst of a water crisis expected to reach ‘day zero’ by April 16th. Also, a related corruption scandal surrounds Mayor Patricia de Lille, a member of the opposition party, Democratic Alliance. Therefore, in order to cope with this crisis, which puts 4.3 million people at risk, it is even more important to move towards transparency and away from corruption. As Richard Calland, an expert in South African politics at the University of Cape Town, argued in The Guardian, Zuma’s departure would give Cyril Ramaphosa “the chance to rebuild government and the party at the same time.”

According to the Telegraph, Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s deputy president, replaced Zuma as the head of the ANC in December with the aim of “bringing… Zuma’s troubled leadership of Africa’s storied liberation movement to an end.” In his first speech as ANC leader, he pledged a corruption crackdown and a policy of radical economic transformation. Ramaphosa’s actions took place just shortly after Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Zuma must face 18 counts of corruption, fraud, racketeering, and money laundering relating to the alleged 1999 arms deal which came to light when Zuma was deputy president in 2005.

Not everyone holds the view that corruption is solely a Zuma-centric problem. Julius Malema, head of the radical Left Economic Freedom Fighters, was quoted in The Telegraph saying, “To think that when Zuma leaves our problems are going to disappear, that is disingenuous…The problem is not Zuma. The problem is not Cyril. The problem is the ANC. So the ANC must be voted out.” This is supported by the Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane who eluded to the fact that the South African people need more of a say. In the Guardian, he stated: “Anyone from the ANC that wants to lead this country must get their mandate from the people of South Africa.” While Zuma’s removal may not rid South Africa of corruption, this process is still an important stepping stone. It shows the South African people that those in power have to face up to their actions.

Charlotte Devenish

History student at the University of Edinburgh, currently on exchange at the University of Auckland.