South African President Jacob Zuma addresses the nation and the media at the government's Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. The ruling African National Congress has told Zuma to resign by the end of Wednesday after rejecting his request to stay in office for several more months. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
DURBAN - “NOT in my name.” 

So said former president Jacob Zuma to his supporters, after he finally stepped down this week, saying he did not want his name to be used for any violent acts.

Zuma had initially defied the call by ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) to step down, but eventually relented, but not before expressing his displeasure at bowing out, more than a year before his second term in office ended.

In an SABC interview on Wednesday afternoon, he issued threats and warnings to the ANC leadership.

He said: “I think we’re being plunged into a crisis my leaders might regret.” He even mentioned the possibility of a breakaway party and violence.

Then, in a complete about turn, Zuma reappeared on TV again after 10pm that night, to announce his resignation.

Reading his exit statement to the nation, Zuma said: “No life should be lost in my name and the ANC should never be divided in my name.”

He said that although he did not agree with the NEC and had not been told what he had done wrong, the unity of the ANC and the country was more important than his position.

“As I leave, I will continue to serve the people of South Africa, as well as the ANC, the organisation I have served all my life,” said Zuma.

When Zuma was booted out as the deputy president of the country by the then President Thabo Mbeki in 2005 as a result of the corruption charges that he faced, many people within the ANC alliance, including prominent SACP and Cosatu leaders, rallied to his defence, ensuring his return to power.

Now, more than a decade later, questions are still being asked about the corruption case against Zuma. The National Prosecuting Authority has promised that a decision on whether to prosecute Zuma or not will be made before the end of this month.

While Zuma has become a villain in the eyes of many, he still has a lot of support, particularly in KZN and his home town, Nkandla.

Over the past few years, ongoing secession battles have created volatile divisions in the ANC between factions that benefited from Zuma’s rule and those that supported Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid for presidency.

Prior to the first democratic elections in South Africa, Zuma was instrumental in brokering peace between between the warring IFP and ANC factions.

In a previous interview with the Sunday Tribune, former KZN premier S’bu Ndebele recalled those turbulent times: “We used to work day and night with Msholozi (Zuma), trying to convince the raging factions of ANC and IFP members to drop their weapons ... we had to do something to quell the violence which ravaged our province.”

Twenty years on, political violence in KZN is largely confined to factional power struggles within the ANC and jockeying for tenders at a municipal level.