12:58 UTC

South Africa Analysis: President Jacob Zuma resigns on February 14, new president Cyril Ramaphosa to face numerous challenges in upcoming months

Executive Summary:

  • Following a period of political uncertainty, President Jacob Zuma resigned from office on February 14 ahead of the end of his mandate in 2019. He was immediately replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa, the new president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.
  • Ramaphosa will face many challenges during the first months of his mandate, with his main priorities being the revival of the stalled economy and fighting corruption, the latter of which triggered the events that led to Zuma’s resignation.
  • Regarded as a pragmatic and fiscally responsible leader, Ramaphosa’s tackling of the stagnant economy will likely lead to increased foreign investment. However, addressing these economic difficulties may result in controversial austerity measures, which would result in large protests in the country’s major urban centers in the short term.
  • Unifying the ANC will be key to Ramaphosa’s success in passing necessary reforms as well as maintaining power through the 2019 general elections, though his addressing of corruption and revival of the tripartite alliance will likely consolidate his power over the party and this will create improved political stability.
  • Travel to Johannesburg and Pretoria can continue while adhering to basic security precautions.

Current Situation:

  • President Jacob Zuma held a press conference during the late hours of February 14 and announced his resignation with immediate effect. On February 15, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as President of South Africa, replacing Zuma until the end of his mandate in 2019, after which he delivered the State of the Nation Address.
  • Immediately after Ramaphosa was elected by a parliamentary vote, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) parties called for anticipatory elections to take place before the end of Ramaphosa’s term in 2019.
  • Zuma’s resignation came after the Executive Committee of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) convened on January 17-21, which was believed to begin discussing Zuma’s potential early departure from office. Subsequently, on February 4, the EFF requested that a vote of no-confidence be held against Zuma, which was then scheduled by parliament for February 22.
  • The ANC Executive Committee officially recalled Zuma on February 13 and insisted that he resigns from office. During this time, the no-confidence vote was pulled up and rescheduled for February 15.