South African President Jacob Zuma’s future is in the hands of the ruling African National Congress’s highest body after he defied calls by top leaders to resign.
The ANC’s National Executive Committee will hold a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the transition from Zuma’s administration to one headed by the new party leadership elected in December and headed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the party said in a statement on Monday.
Zuma, who’s due to deliver the state-of-the-nation address on Thursday, defied calls by the top six leaders to resign at a meeting on Sunday, according to five senior party officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Zuma’s response to the leaders was discussed at a meeting of the ANC’s 26-member National Working Committee on Monday, which decided to refer it to the NEC, the party said. Two senior party officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the party’s top decision-making body would decide at its meeting in Cape Town whether to force Zuma from office.
“This is the beginning of the end for Zuma,” said Theo Venter, a political analyst at North-West University’s business school in Potchefstroom, west of Johannesburg. “He has used up all his options. It remains in doubt whether he will deliver the state-of-the-nation address.”
While Zuma is due to step down in mid-2019, his nine-year tenure has been marred by a series of scandals and policy missteps. Critics say if he remains in office, the party could lose the electoral majority it has enjoyed since it took power under Nelson Mandela in the first multiracial elections in 1994.
The divisions Zuma’s leadership has exposed within the ANC were evident outside the party’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Monday, where the president’s supporters and opponents staged rival protests amid a strong police presence.
Since Ramaphosa became the ANC leader, the rand has been the best performer in the world, with investors expecting that Zuma would be replaced early and that the new administration would do a better job of managing the economy. The currency was 0.5 percent stronger at 12.0272 per dollar at 9 p.m. in Johannesburg.
If Zuma refuses a call by the executive committee to resign, it could organize a caucus meeting in parliament to discuss ways to removing the president, such as bringing a no-confidence motion or supporting one from the opposition.
Zuma, who’s survived numerous efforts to remove him from office, faces the first no-confidence motion — brought by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters — in parliament on Feb. 22 without being head of his party.
— With assistance by Michael Cohen