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A RELUCTANT Jacob Zuma on Wednesday bid farewell to South Africans as he announced his resignation as President but he bemoaned the decision by his party to cut his stay short.
An emotional Zuma took the nation by surprise with his speech as he started off by denouncing the decision by the African National Congress and the failure to furnish him with what he had done wrong to warrant a recall. He also lashed out at the party’s leadership for announcing that he would be voted out in Parliament before the deadline he was given to respond lapsed.
“I make reference to the much publicized and awaited decision of the African National Congress issued on 13 February 2018. It is now public knowledge that the National Executive Committee of the ANC resolved to recall me as the President of the Republic. I have also learned that, before I respond to the initial decision, a new decision has been made by the ANC, whose effect is that I have now been compelled to resign by way of a motion of no confidence, set down for 15 February 2018,” he said.
He acknowledged that it was through the party’s nomination he became a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa after its victory in the national elections of 2014. Zuma said it was on the ANC’s nomination that he was later elected by the majority in the National Assembly as the President of the Republic.
For that, he would forever be indebted to the organisation for deploying him to the pinnacle of its role in government. He said the journey was a learning experience, a mammoth task, the performance of which can never be done without difficulty and learning on the way.
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. It has detours, human error and boulders strewn along the path.
During this part of his speech, many thought Nxamalala would defy his party and not resign. He took the leadership on a politics 101 class and explained the process of how he was elected and how he should be removed.
“I serve in my capacity as President of the Republic of South Africa within the prism of our much-acclaimed Constitution, whose foundational values I fully subscribe to. I understand fully that while I serve at the pleasure of my party, the ANC, the door through which I officially came to serve the people of South Africa is the National Assembly, without which no political party can impose its candidate on the electorate, no matter how popular. This Constitutional line between Party and State is often forgotten in the usual business of party political contestations. As we fight our own battles in the corridors of political power, and sometimes serving the very interests of the oppressors of yesteryear, who joyfully celebrate as we lynch one another, we often forget the citizens on whose behalf we create a better life. We tend to place the political party above the supreme law of the country, which is the rule book for the country’s political engagement,” he said.
At this point, it was evident that Msholozi, as he is affectionately known was rolling up his sleeves and getting ready to fight tooth and nail. Earlier in the day he had broken his silence and told the nation that the party could not tell him the reasons for the recall and had made a U-turn on an exit agreement reached with president Cyril Ramaphosa.
“I do not make this reference because I am above reproach. Nor do I wish to proclaim that in undertaking my political responsibilities I have been the epitome of perfection. If truth be told, none of us are. However, I respect the prescripts of the Constitution and its consequences on how we enter, stay in and exit political office and Government. There has been much speculation about how the President of the Republic should exit his or her office. In my case, some have even dared to suggest that one’s perks and post-service benefits should determine how one chooses to vacate public office. Often these concerns about perks and benefits are raised by the very same people seeking to speak as paragons of virtue and all things constitutional,” he said.
Zuma was firing on all cylinders, like the engines of an aeroplane getting ready to take off from the tarmac. He told the nation that he was not desperate to have the perks that came with being a former president. He said he did not care about them and had not joined politics to have such luxuries.
He told the party and nation that he was not afraid of being impeached or a motion of no confidence in him. Again, this was interpreted as a sign of war. Here was a man who was willing to fight to the bitter end and lose everything. It did not matter to him. All he wanted was to be respected and treated fairly. Many South Africans held their breaths, gasping and preparing to watch him being humiliated in Parliament the following day.
“Some even suggest that the relevant constitutional provisions, sections 89 and 102, in terms of which the President should be removed from office, would constitute an embarrassment or humiliation. For that reason, various suggestions are made to help leaders avoid this constitutional route of vacating political office without perks. If we avail ourselves to serve in terms of the Constitution, we should be prepared, if needs be, and if those we serve deem it appropriate, to suffer the hardship that comes with our constitutional obligations. Whether we lose our post-political office benefits, should not determine how we act in the time of our departure. Nor did I agree to serve because there are no better cadres in the ANC and the country. Most importantly, I did not agree to serve in order to exit with perks and benefits of the Office of the President,” he said.
His follow up statement edged the fighting idea even deeper into the minds of people. Make no mistake, No leader should stay beyond the time determined by the people they serve. Most importantly, no leader should seek an easy way out simply because they could not face life at the end of their term without the perks that come with their political office, he added.
“I do not fear exiting political office. However, I have only asked my party to articulate my transgressions and the reason for its immediate instruction that I vacate office. This was important in view of the discussions I held with the President and Secretary General of the Party that were aimed at uniting our organization, the ANC. It is indeed true that there was an agreement, that even if the need arises that I should vacate the office before the end of term, there is a need to have a period of transition, during which I would delegate some of the functions to the Deputy President of the Republic. 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. I fear no motion of no confidence or impeachment, for they are the lawful mechanisms for the people of this beautiful country to remove their President,” Zuma said.
He was not done, he changed languages and switched to his mother tongue, IsiZulu. What was to follow gave those sitting in the media room of the Union Buildings goosebumps. It raised the hairs on the back of the neck. His words went through the ears but found ground to rest in the heart. He spoke directly to the people, he struck a chord, he got people emotional.
He let South Africans and the rest of the world see his vulnerable side. Whether we are to admit it or not, we started feeling for him, many sympathised with him.
“Ngithanda ukusho ukuthi kwizinkalo ngezinkalo lapho abantu bakithi bekhona, ngokuzithoba okungenamkhawulo kusemqoka ukunazisa ukuthi angidaze nkani okweselesele. Kunjalo nje angexwaye kwehla esikhundleni sobuMongameli waleli lengabadi. Angingenanga emzabalazweni ngoba ngigaqele izikhundla. Yinye nje into engiyicelayo kini sizwe sakithi, ukuthi nokho angiphume ngomgudu womthetho sisekelo okuyiwona engabekwa ngawo. Angikwesabi ukulahlakelwa amalungelo nopoyinandi oza nesikhundla sobuMongameli. Angingenelanga lezozinto kuhulumeni, kunjalo nje azithi shu lapha kimi. Ngifuna kuphela ubulungiswa nokuhlonishwa komthetho sisekelo kanye namalungelo ami. Uma kwenzeke njalo, ngiyophuma ngokuzithoba nokuhlonipha. Ngiyakholelwa ukuthi ngiwenzile owami umsebenzi enaningibekele wona. Uma kukhona la ngingenzanga kahle, bakwethu AKUKHO SOKA ELINGENASICI,” he said.
But the master tactician, the chess player was not done. He threw the country and world into a tailspin when he dropped the bombshell that he would be stepping down with immediate effect. Hold on, many said subconsciously. From the onset, it sounded like you are going to fight. What’s going on here?
Having experienced the bloodbath in KwaZulu-Natal in the 90s, Msholozi could not bear the thought of blood being spilt in his name. He was not going to have that. The love he has for his organisation, the ANC would also not allow him to stick around while the liberation movement ripped itself apart. Like a parent that would do anything for the well-being of their child, Zuma said instances of violence that occurred because of the different views among members of his beloved organization outside Luthuli House should not be allowed to continue in his name. He sacrificed his own needs and desires for the sake of stability and peace (unity).
“No life should be lost in my name and also the ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as President of the Republic with immediate effect,” he said.