South African President Jacob Zuma has resigned “with immediate effect’ after the ruling African National Congress threatened to remove him.
In a televised address to the nation, Mr Zuma said that no leader should stay longer than the people want him to.
The announcement came as the ANC threatened to effectively sack the long-serving leader via a parliamentary no-confidence vote.
The move also came just hours after armed police raided the luxury home of Mr Zuma’s friends, the Gupta brothers, as part of an anti-corruption investigation.
In his first response to the avalanche of pressure for him to quit, Mr Zuma, who has been dogged by scandal throughout his political life, proclaimed his innocence and said he was being “victimised” by Nelson Mandela’s former liberation movement.
“There’s nothing I’ve done wrong,” a relaxed but indignant Zuma said during a nearly hour-long interview with the SABC, South Africa’s state broadcaster.
“I don’t think it’s fair. I think it’s unfair.”
He did not comment on the police raids, which marked a dramatic tightening of the net around the 75-year-old and the political faction around him accused of milking state resources for their own ends.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose election as head of the ANC in December marked the beginning of the end of Mr Zuma’s tenure, could be sworn in as head of state as early as Friday.
“After we have voted for the removal of the President of the Republic tomorrow – and depending on the availability of the Chief Justice – we will also elect a new president,” Mr Mthembu told a news conference in Cape Town before Mr Zuma’s resignation.
The rand, which has gained ground whenever Mr Zuma has hit political turbulence, soared more than one per cent to a two-and-a-half year high of 11.79 against the dollar.
– With AAP