President Jacob Zuma announces his resignation at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
In my three score years of life, two days stand out as perhaps the most liberating.

The first was 28 years ago when Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison. I remember that day as if it were yesterday.

As Tata Madiba emerged on to the streets of Cape Town a free man, a feeling of euphoria and emancipation washed over me.

When he was freed, so, too, were millions of his fellow South Africans living under the bondage of racial oppression. Armed with the vote, we could now march forward as fully fledged citizens and work towards building a just, stable and prosperous democracy.

The second liberating moment came this Wednesday when Jacob Zuma was recalled as president of the country and Cyril Ramaphosa was installed as head of state.

Admittedly, the euphoria could not match that of the Mandela moment, but the sense of relief was nevertheless palpable.

Like Mandela, Zuma was once a proud and respected freedom fighter. But power does often corrupt.

So, when he found himself swimming against a tidal wave of scandals over corruption and his closeness to a certain family of disrepute, his days as president were indeed numbered.

Many South Africans had grown impatient with his shenanigans. He was becoming a liability to both his party and the country.

Zuma is hurting from his humiliation, as are his many loyal supporters, including such high-profile figures as ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, who admitted the axing of her leader was “very painful”.

So, as we celebrate the dawn of a new era, let’s not get too carried away with our euphoria. Any programme to reconstruct and develop South Africa is going to require the goodwill of all sides and a climate of cooperation and reconciliation.

It is here that Zuma may have an opportunity to redeem his tattered reputation.

He can still play a constructive role by calming the waters in the days ahead, as he did so effectively in KwaZulu-Natal in the volatile 1990s.

Even when announcing his resignation this week, Zuma insisted “no life should be lost in my name”.

Let’s judge the man by his actions in the sensitive days ahead.

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Read more from Dennis Pather:

Cyril’s no saint, but who cares?