South Africa: ANC decides Zuma must go 'urgently'


South African president, Jacob Zuma, arrives for the formal opening of parliament in Cape Town in 2015Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Jacob Zuma has been president of South Africa since 2009

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) has formally asked President Jacob Zuma to resign “for the sake of the country”.

But despite the ANC’s top leadership deciding to “recall” him “urgently”, the scandal-hit Mr Zuma was still in power on Tuesday.

He is expected to respond to the request on Wednesday, an official said.

He had already told them he was willing to stand down in the next three to six months, the official added.

Mr Zuma, who has been in power since 2009, has been dogged by corruption allegations.

But he has so far resisted increasing pressure to quit since December, when Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him as leader of the ANC.

Ace Magashule, the ANC’s secretary-general, told reporters the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) decided the removal should be “treated with urgency”.

“The NEC has noted South Africa is going through a period of uncertainty and anxiety as a result of unresolved matter of transition,” he said.

Mr Magashule said the country needed to build on the feeling of “renewed hope” felt after the election of Mr Ramaphosa as ANC leader.

“It is obvious we want Comrade Ramaphosa to come in as the president of South Africa,” he added.

He said the president was expected to respond to the NEC’s decision on Wednesday, although they had given him no deadline.

What has Mr Zuma done wrong?

Mr Zuma’s presidency has been overshadowed by allegations of corruption which he has always vehemently denied.

In 2016, South Africa’s highest court ruled that Mr Zuma had violated the constitution when he failed to repay government money spent on his private home.

Last year the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that he must face 18 counts of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money-laundering relating to a 1999 arms deal.

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Media captionThe Zuma presidency: Scandals and successes

More recently, Mr Zuma’s links to the wealthy India-born Gupta family, who are alleged to have influenced the government, have caused his popularity to plummet.

Both Mr Zuma and the Guptas deny the allegations.

How likely is Mr Zuma to quit?

The formal request to resign is difficult to resist, but he is not legally obliged to do so and could technically carry on as president despite losing the support of his party.

However, should he continue to defy his party, he would be expected to face a confidence vote in parliament. This has been scheduled for 22 February, but it could be held earlier.

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Getty Images

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Many in the ANC hope that removing Mr Zuma will boost the party’s chances in the 2019 elections

Mr Zuma has survived other such votes but he is not expected to pull it off again. A confidence vote would be considered a humiliating process for him and the party.

South African media are calling President Zuma’s seemingly inevitable exit “Zexit”.

His predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, resigned in 2008, also after a power struggle with his deputy.

The deputy in question was Jacob Zuma, who took over the presidency the following year.

Why is this happening now?

The ANC was badly rattled by its performance at the 2016 local elections when it won its lowest share of the vote since coming to power under the late Nelson Mandela in 1994.

It wants to project a fresh image for next year’s general election. Having served two terms in office (South African presidents are elected by parliament), Mr Zuma cannot legally return to power in any case.

On Monday, opposition parties called for an early election.

“Anyone from the ANC that wants to lead this country, must get their mandate from the people of South Africa,” Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane told reporters.


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