The marquee’s were already erected and the canapés ordered when the announcement came that that the annual address is postponed. This would likely cause some embarrassment to South African lawmakers, but many felt that it would be less undignified than the chaos that would have likely ensued if Zuma was allowed to speak on schedule.

If Zuma had taken to the podium, opposition parties were likely to disrupt the televised address. When announcing the postponement, speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete said the delay would “create room for establishing a more conducive environment.”  That senior ANC officials like Mbete would not protect Zuma as they have done for the last decade or so shows that Zuma’s friends are becoming fewer.

If Zuma survives beyond Thursday, he’ll have to face his ninth vote of no confidence vote in parliament later this month. He’s survived them all, but his winning margins have dwindled as members of the ANC are so discouraged by Zuma’s leadership that they’ve voted with the opposition.

It is now almost an inevitability that Zuma will leave before his term ends in 2019. It may not, however, be the dignified exit he had hoped for. In that case, the deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa will likely succeed him and deliver the state of the nation address. Ramaphosa at the podium signals a new era to the international community and South Africans. Yet, given the extent of the chaos the Zuma years have brought to South Africa’s government, removing him may not bring the immediate assurance many hope for.

This post has been updated. 

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