JOHANNESBURG • South Africans awoke to a country without Mr Jacob Zuma as president for the first time in nine years yesterday, after the scandal-plagued head of state reluctantly resigned on orders from the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Acting President Cyril Ramaphosa was due to be confirmed as Mr Zuma's permanent successor in a parliamentary vote yesterday evening, Singapore time.
The road back to prosperity and self-respect under Mr Ramaphosa, who became ANC head last December, will be long and hard in a nation divided by race and inequality.
But Mr Zuma's departure offers evidence of the strength of South Africa's institutions, from the courts to the media to the Constitution. He resigned as president late on Wednesday after nine years in office.
The 75-year-old, in a 30-minute farewell address to the nation, said he disagreed with the way the ANC had pushed him towards an early exit after Mr Ramaphosa replaced him as party president, but that he would accept its orders.
"Defiant in defeat" and "Going, going, gone" were some of the newspaper headlines that captured Mr Zuma's reluctance to leave. "South Africa's long nightmare is over," read the headline of an analysis on online news site Daily Maverick.
The foundation set up to guard the legacy of the late anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela said yesterday that Mr Zuma's resignation brought to an end "a painful era for the country". The ANC hailed Mr Zuma's decision to resign.
TURNING THE PAGE
One chapter in South Africa's political soap opera has finally ended with the resignation last night of President Jacob Zuma. It would be gratifying to see the dedication and purpose that the ANC put into ridding itself of Mr Zuma now be directed into rebuilding the economy, dealing with the corruption still residing in the ANC and improving its shoddy governance record.
NKC AFRICAN ECONOMICS ANALYSTS
Mr Ramaphosa is expected to fill the role of president until an election next year.
His appointment appears certain as the ANC holds a majority in Parliament, though lawmakers will hold a secret ballot if he is not the sole candidate.
"The office of the chief justice has made itself available today to officiate in the business of electing a new president," ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu told a parliamentary committee meeting.
Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete has received a letter from Mr Zuma informing her of his resignation as president, her office said in a statement yesterday.
Mr Ramaphosa's first state of the nation address is expected to take place today.
The speech had been scheduled to be delivered by Mr Zuma on Feb 8, but was postponed after pressure mounted for him to resign.
The rand currency, which has gained ground whenever Mr Zuma has hit political turbulence, soared to a near three-year high against the US dollar on his resignation.
"One chapter in South Africa's political soap opera has finally ended with the resignation last night of President Jacob Zuma," NKC African Economics analysts wrote in a note.
"It would be gratifying to see the dedication and purpose that the ANC put into ridding itself of Mr Zuma now be directed into rebuilding the economy, dealing with the corruption still residing in the ANC and improving its shoddy governance record."
Mr Zuma's resignation came just hours after the police raided the luxury home of the Gupta family - Indian-born billionaire allies of the former president who have been at the centre of corruption allegations against Mr Zuma and his circle for years.
Mr Zuma and the Guptas have always denied wrongdoing.
Police said on Wednesday that three people were arrested during the raids on various properties in Johannesburg.
They said the raid was in connection with a state-funded dairy farm, which prosecutors last month called a "scheme designed to defraud and steal".