MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
South Africa's scandal-plagued President has resigned. President Jacob Zuma made the announcement in a nationally televised address late today. The move follows a protracted showdown with the governing African National Congress party, which planned to remove him from office on Thursday through a no-confidence vote.
For more on these dramatic developments, we're joined by reporter Peter Granitz. He's in Pretoria, South Africa. Hi, Peter.
PETER GRANITZ, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Tell us a little bit more about what President Zuma had to say in this dramatic national address where he resigned.
GRANITZ: President Zuma had a lot of good things to say about the ANC, about the party that fought apartheid, the liberation movement that brought democracy to the country. There had been rumors in recent days that he would potentially split the party, break the party if he went out in an undignified way. But he set that rumor to rest tonight.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JACOB ZUMA: No life should be lost in my name. And also, the ANC should never be divided in my name. I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect.
KELLY: Peter, do we know what caused Zuma to arrive at this decision? He had not exactly been signaling that he was going to go happily off into the sunset. What changed his mind?
GRANITZ: No, he didn't. And earlier in the day, he gave a very defiant and angry speech to the state broadcaster about how he thought he was being treated unfairly. But it became clear to him, and the party made it abundantly clear, that they were going to vote him out of office tomorrow. The party saved him a number of times in Parliament.
Jacob Zuma lost his political power two months ago when his term as ANC president ended. Cyril Ramaphosa won the race to lead the party. And he ran on a campaign, he ran on a platform of cleaning up the rot, cleaning up the corruption in the ANC - very clearly targeted Jacob Zuma.
So he consolidated his power after that. And it became very clear that the ANC was shifting its alliance towards Cyril Ramaphosa.
KELLY: And tell us a little bit more - remind us what these allegations of rot and corruption were that ultimately have brought Zuma down.
GRANITZ: They've been around for decades, Mary Louise. One of them goes back to the late 1990s and his role in an arms deal worth billions of dollars. Those charges could come up again in a matter of weeks. President Zuma, well, former President Zuma now I should say, will find out in a matter of days whether he'll have to face I think it's 18 charges relating to upwards of 800 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering.
And that's just one criminal case. He faces a judicial inquiry as well that's going to investigate wholesale looting at government-owned entities. In addition to that one, he also faces a judicial inquiry into wholesale looting at government-owned entities. That's going to round up potentially some of his children, too.
KELLY: And briefly, Peter, what happens now? Who's going to replace him?
GRANITZ: Well, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is now acting president. He will be officially sworn in as president tomorrow when Parliament votes him in. He will be the fifth president of South Africa. They've all been from the ANC. And it's important to note that President Ramaphosa comes in with a very, very heavy load. The economy is in tatters. He needs to keep the party intact.
He needs to assure South Africans that the government is there to work for them.
KELLY: Thanks so much, Peter.
GRANITZ: You bet.
KELLY: That's Peter Granitz reporting from Pretoria on the end of an era in South African politics. President Jacob Zuma stepped down today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.