EPA (FILE) SOUTH AFRICA PRESIDENT POL GOVERNMENT ZAF
A torn African National Congress (ANC) election poster shows the face of ANC president Jacob Zuma, revealing that not all South African's want the ANC to remain in power, Soweto, South Africa, April 20, 2009.(reissued Feb. 11, 2018).
KIM LUDBROOK, EPA-EFE

South Africa's beleaguered Jacob Zuma resigned Wednesday as president 'with immediate effect' after being under pressure by the ruling African National Congress party over corruption allegations.

Zuma said earlier Wednesday that he had done nothing wrong. 

More: South Africa's Jacob Zuma resigns as president ‘with immediate effect’

“I’m being victimized here,” Zuma said, complaining that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, his expected successor, and other party leaders had not given him clear reasons why he should step down.

How did it get to this point?

Colorful character

Zuma, 75, is a colorful character who rose from poverty and no formal schooling to become South Africa’s president in 2009, following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela — the country's first black president — and Thabo Mbeki. Despite anger over his numerous scandals and with many of his own party's lawmakers turning against him, Zuma remains popular in many rural strongholds. A member of the Zulu tribe, he is a traditionalist and a polygamist, who presently has four wives. He has been married six times and has 21 children.

Various scandals

Zuma faced corruption allegations from an arms deal in 1999 that involved the government's purchase of  warships, submarines, fighter jets and helicopters. He was also accused of accepting bribes from Thint Holdings, a French arms company in 2005, and was fired as deputy president that year over the incident. Zuma denies any wrongdoing.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma had to pay back some of the $16 million used to upgrade his rural home in Nkandla. 

What happens next? 

Zuma was replaced as leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in the party's December election by Ramaphosa, who is expected to be elected swiftly in a parliament vote and sworn in. Ramaphosa, one of South Africa’s wealthiest businessmen, has vowed to root out government corruption.

What does all this mean for Americans?

Relations between South Africa and the United States were “severely strained” from the 1960s until the early 1990s by the minority white government’s racial policies during the apartheid era, according to the State Department.

Since apartheid ended in 1991 and Mandela's election in 1994, the two nations “have enjoyed a solid bilateral relationship,” the State Department said. Much criticism, though was recently directed at President Trump’s reported description of African nations as “shithole countries" while discussing immigration. South Africa said in January that it would summon the U.S. chargé d'affaires in the capital Pretoria "to explain the statement."

More: South Africa’s ruling party tells Jacob Zuma to resign from office

Contributing: The Associated Press