The 75-year-old’s resignation caps the end of a tumultuous decade in which he has survived several no-confidence votes in parliament, a string of corruption allegations and street protests against his rule.

The announcement eventually came in a televised address to the nation.

Mr Zuma said no leader should stay beyond the time determined by the people they serve.

Jacob Zuma

Jacob Zuma

But in his 30-minute farewell speech to the nation, he made it clear he disagreed with the way the ANC had pushed him towards an early exit after the election of Cyril Ramaphosa as party president in December.

He said: “I must accept that if my party wished that I be removed from office they must exercise that right and do so in the manner prescribed by the constitution.

“I have therefore come to the decision to resign as president of the republic with immediate effect.

“Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC.

“No life should be lost in my name. And also the ANC should not be divided in my name.”

The ruling party had vowed to vote him out on Thursday if he refused to stand down.

The resignation ends the career of the former anti-apartheid resistance fighter who has four wives, a sharp tongue and a decades-long history of entanglement in scandals that polarised Nelson Mandela’s “Rainbow Nation”.

The rand currency, which has gained ground whenever Mr Zuma has hit political turbulence, soared more than one percent to a 2-1/2 year high of 11.79 against the dollar during the day, as pressure piled on him to resign.

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