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Zuma, Desalegn: A Tale of Two Resignations

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The world is agog with the forced resignation of the South African President Jacob Zuma. Many had seen it coming in the wake of the serious allegations of corruption levelled against him. However, what no one was prepared for was the voluntary resignation of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, shortly after. BUKOLA OGUNSINA examines these two incidences.

The world seemed to stand at attention, transfixed to the happenings in South Africa, as the African National Congress (ANC) party, forthrightly, and immovably called for the resignation of Jacob Zuma, the fourth President of South Africa, piqued by his rule peppered with scandals. There were series of dissents, mixed with appeals by his cohorts urging him to throw in the towel in a bid to salvage whatever remained of his dignity. Eventually with a resignation request sent out by the ANC Party Leadership and the threat of ‘no confidence’ motion in Parliament looming in the background of this tragic tale, Zuma had no choice but to finally step down.

Parliament showed no patience even as the fallen leader in what still baffles many, had asked with assumed innocence what he had done and why no one was telling him? As if he did not see the charges written against him or more obvious the writings on the wall. In spite of all the drama of ‘not knowing,’ and the insistent collective voice of not just ANC but the South African People, Zuma had no choice but oblige the majority and step down as South Africa’s leader. Albeit, Zuma stuck to his claims of being loyal to the Party and to his innocence when he initially said in an emotion laden voice during an interview with South African Broadcast Corporation before his resignation, “Why must I be persuaded to resign, have I done anything wrong?”

A Valentine’s day decision, when many had already began imagining that an impeachment would have the desired end effect, he may just have surprised a few on the 14th of February 2018, when he with an air of perplexity, gave his resignation speech which began thus in a televised speech to the nation; “I have … come to the decision to resign as the president of the Republic with immediate effect,” he said, equally coming to the realization that, “Of course, I must accept that if my party and my compatriots wish that I be removed from office, they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the constitution.”

Zuma had claimed being a victim of the party politics. He had been previously charged of using 28 million USD of taxpayers’ money to upgrade his personal residence with a swimming pool, a cattle coral, a chicken coop and other sundry security measures in the year 2014. Reports further gathered that he had been forced to pay back some of the said money in 2016. And then came the tsunami that tipped the ice berg in the name of the Guptas brothers, when South Africans could no longer bear it. The Guptas brothers, who are Indians were accused of using their privileged position of doing business with Zuma’s son, Duduzane to influence cabinet positions and state policies in a bid to enhance their business empire. However Zuma and his son have denied these claims and so have the Guptas Trio.

Nevertheless the country’s elite crimes investigation unit invaded the Gupta residence and made several arrests. That is not all, reports say Zuma’s son Duduzane is also being sought out in connection with a fraud scandal that tapped state funds away from a black farmer empowerment initiative, according to reports by local investigative journal, the Mail & Guardian.

And with all this, Zuma resolutely claimed not to know why he was being asked to resign. According to an online report, he had merely dismissed the charges as ‘minor peccadillos,’ To some experts it would seem the President who rose from grass to grains, and was once upon a time admired and revered, had simply finished off his time by tainting the fabric of South Africa’s image internationally. Peeling off layer by layer the hard work of Nelson Mandela who had brought the image of South Africa to be respected worldwide through his selfless sacrifice and fight against apartheid. What image will the world have of South Africa now? Perhaps the world would continue to view it as Mandela’s South Africa, or a new South Africa shrunken by corruption, a shadow of its former self?

Zuma’s rule inching towards ten years was ravaged by fraud and corruption. He even had charges dating way back to a 1999 involving an arms deal. His deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa is set to take the mantle starting off from where Zuma stopped, and is to equally head the ANC.

All seems well when it comes to the acceptance of Ramaphosa as the new President, even though the country’s national elections are still a year and a half away. Ramaphosa, known as an anti-apartheid leader, and a successful business man was elected less than 24 hours by parliament. The onus is now on him to repair in the following months, the disaster afflicted by Zuma on the country. South Africa is currently plagued by unemployment which is at a high of 25 percent, with irksome water shortages in the parts of the West and East among other disturbing issues.

The world might have seen Zuma’s resignation coming, but no one was prepared for the resignation of the Ethiopian Prime Minister which followed a day after the submission of Zuma to the request of his Party and people. It is as if a wind of change in all its might was blowing across those regions of Africa, a tale of two resignations. Similar and yet so different for the fact that one was willing while the other was not.

Unlike Zuma’s forced resignation, Hailemariam Desalegn who has led the country since 2012, willingly and voluntarily presented his resignation. Probably being bullied by the political elite in Ethiopia gave him room for sober reflection on what he deemed right to do. He resigned a day after Valentine ’s Day on the 15th of February 2018. He resigned as both Premier and Chairman of the ruling coalition in what he states as an effort to facilitate reforms in the aftermath of a period of general turmoil in the country which had claimed a lot of lives, according to Reuters.

The crisis stemmed from the calls for political and economic reform alongside fighting for an end to state corruption. The turmoil gained ground in 2015 and 2016 also involving what was termed political restrictions and human rights abuses.

Desalegn stating in a televised speech that the unrest and political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many, and as such”… I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.”

In a report, the resigned Ethiopian leader said he would stay on in his position but in a caretaker role until the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the parliament accepted his resignation and named someone else in his stead.

The man who became a martyr to some overnight believed his singular act would result in sustainable peace and democracy for Ethiopia, as reports have noted that hundreds of people have lost their lives in the three years of anti-government protests. The bulk of the crisis occurred in what is regarded as Ethiopia’s two most massive regions of Oromia and Amhara. Actions were set in place to resolve the crisis when government prompted a 10 month national state of emergency in 2017, last year. The government did not stop at that but equally released thousands of opposition supporters from Jail the previous month.

Desalegn it is said has been regarded as a weak leader without leadership skills by the political elite. It has also been pointed out that the crisis may as well have an ethnic tone to it. As Oromo protesters have been said to accuse the authorities of marginalisation.

Some view his announcement as a welcome development and great news for Ethiopia. The trained engineer became Prime Minister after the death of Meles Zenawi who had ruled since 1991. Zenawi’s shoes seemed too big to fill, as Desalegn in spite of being an ally to Zenawi, struggled to gain approval of other EPRDF leaders.

It has also been hinted that Ethiopia at this moment cannot afford to have chinks in its armour. A weak government and turmoil wrecked Ethiopia would be disastrous, as the country is regarded as the string holding together the horn of Africa, known to be the most complex and conflicted region of the world.



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