Goodbye Jacob Zuma

Faced with a vote of no-confidence that would have forced his resignation, Jacob Zuma stepped down as South Africa’s president on Wednesday. A quarter century from the end of apartheid, the African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party, now finds itself at a crossroads. Once Nelson Mandela’s party of national liberation, the ANC has seen its popularity and credibility eroded by nine years of Zuma’s scandal-plagued rule. Faced with nearly 800 corruption charges, Zuma used his position and control of the ANC to avoid prosecution. Those days are done.

In December, the ANC chose Cyril Ramaphosa as its new leader over Zuma’s ex-wife, a candidate who might have protected Zuma from legal peril and political oblivion. Zuma wasn’t due to step down as the country’s president until next year, but most of the party leadership wanted him out now to boost the party’s image in time for the next election in 2019. South Africa and the ANC now have a chance to move forward.

Before we bid Zuma farewell, here’s a story worth telling. Four years ago, I had the very good fortune to join Western Cape governor and opposition leader Helen Zille and her husband for dinner. She told us the story of an event she attended in 2009 at the president’s residence. Zuma, whom she regularly publicly criticized in very blunt terms, invited her to dance, and as they moved across the floor, he told her a story about his schoolboy crush on a young girl from his village who wouldn’t return his interest because he didn’t know how to dance. The young Zuma then talked his way into free-of-charge Arthur Murray dance lessons in exchange for chores performed around the studio.

I’ve never met Zuma, but listening to Zille, I felt the warm reflection of a charm that lifted him to great heights. It’s there in his speeches. A rare charisma. But South Africa now moves on.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

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