President Jacob Zuma announces his resignation at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
JOHANNESBURG - This week marked the beginning of the end of Jacob Zuma’s controversial reign at the helm of continental superpower that is South Africa and the rand strengthened on the welcome news of his long drawn-out exit.

This is how Zuma’s removal - kicking and screaming - from the Union Buildings unfolded, which boosted the rand :

On Monday, the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC), the highest decision-making body between conferences, were locked in a marathon meeting that lasted more than 12 hours, wherein it was decided that Zuma must go. He refused. It emerged on Tuesday that he had been given a Wednesday deadline to relinquish power to his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, failing of which he risked a motion of no confidence in Parliament on Thursday.

Making things worse was Zuma’s wife Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, who took to social media to rally behind her allegedly kleptocratic “everyday crush”, stating emphatically that Zuma was not going anywhere, and threatening in no uncertain terms that all hell was about to break loose.

During a media briefing on Tuesday the ANC admitted it had recalled Zuma, but its secretary-general Ace Magashule was at pains to explain the reasons for Zuma’s resignation. Magashule, who is widely viewed as a close Gupta and Zuma acolyte, shocked many when he said Zuma -  who was found by the Constitutional Court to have broken his oath of office over the Nkandla security upgrades - had done nothing wrong.

But ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe, who was in his home province of Eastern Cape, would have none of it. 

He told a cheering crowd of ANC supporters in Butterworth: “As a disciplined cadre of the ANC, you are given a chance to resign on your own. But if you lack discipline, you will resist. Once you resist, we are going to let you be thrown out through the vote of no confidence, because you disrespect the organisation and you disobey it. Therefore we are going to let you be devoured by the vultures,” said Mantashe.

On Wednesday, ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile briefed the ANC parliamentary caucus in Cape Town about the decision of the ANC NEC to recall Zuma, and stated that the party had in fact given him a deadline to resign by Wednesday or face the humiliation of being voted out by his comrades through a parliamentary process.

The rand firmed R11.78/$ on the ANC caucus decision to remove Zuma through a no confidence motion in Parliament by Friday, if he refused to resign his powerful position, he is accused of abusing to benefit his family, his acolytes and the controversial Gupta family. 

The local currency, however, regressed back to R11.85/$ following Zuma’s threats during an SABC interview that the ANC leadership would live to regret the decision to recall him.

As Wednesday progressed, Zuma dug in his heels saying he completely disagreed with the ruling party’s decision to fire him from the Presidency and claimed that he had not been furnished with reasons on why he should fall on his sword. He said he was not being defiant to the ANC by disagreeing with their decision.

In an interview with the SABC on Wednesday, a relaxed-looking Zuma, who was decked out in a flowing Madiba-style shirt, warned the ANC leadership about a looming crisis if he was removed from his influential position.

He said he had requested about three months from the ANC before he could resign, so that he could wind up outstanding matters and “introduce” - and by extension parade - Ramaphosa to world leaders.

As Zuma ran out of options, he grudgingly resigned with “immediate effect” on Wednesday night, beating the deadline set for him by the ANC, and the rand roared to R11.66/$, its strongest against the greenback since 2015.

Zuma’s long overdue departure from the Union Buildings signalled a new chapter for South Africa’s young democracy, free from grand corruption that characterised his controversial and scandal-riven tenure as Number One.

- BUSINESS REPORT