Nelson Mandela Foundation

Union Buildings

The Nelson Mandela Foundation welcomes the decision made by President Jacob Zuma to resign from office. That it took him so long to do the honourable thing attests again to the degree to which he had come to see the presidency as his personal fiefdom.

His departure marks the end of our county’s highest office being used to systematically loot state coffers. We trust that it will also mark the beginning of a politics that places the most vulnerable at the centre.

We acknowledge the sterling work done by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and many other leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) in forcing the 14 February breakthrough. We note also the unprecedented spirit of cooperation between opposition political parties, which played a key role in sealing Zuma's ouster. This spirit will be essential as the long work of cleaning up and fixing unfolds.

We welcome the decisive moves by organs of the state to act against the networks of criminality that have crippled our democracy in the last decade. While Zuma remains the symbol of this criminality, all those involved must be held to account.

Of course, it is not going to be enough simply to clean up and fix. Our flagship project on poverty and inequality, the Mandela Initiative, which concluded a national workshop in Cape Town on 14 February, offered analysis on how this state capture has taken place in democratic South Africa. In part, the explanation lies in the failure to ensure a fundamental restructuring of the economy after 1994. Without such transformation, the country has been (and will remain) vulnerable to leaders who extract private wealth in the guise of progressive change.

As we enter the centenary of Madiba’s birth, there is a need to reckon with the failures of the democratic era. We believe that we are at a critical moment in our history, one that offers us the unique opportunity to reflect, to rebuild, and to transform. Making this moment work for the vast majority of South Africans would be to honour Madiba in the best way possible.