President Jacob Zuma is in a head-to-head struggle with the top leaders of his own party after he defied their call to step down.
Zuma, 75, refused to resign following an appeal by Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced him as head of the ANC in December, and its other top five officials on Sunday night, according to five senior party members with knowledge of the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity. Zuma, whose second and final term as ANC leader is due to end around mid-2019, is scheduled to deliver the annual state-of-the-nation address on 8 February.
“I think he knows he has to go. It’s not winnable,” said Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst based in Johannesburg. “I think he is going ahead with the state-of-the-nation address. Logistically, it is becoming impossible to have someone else do it.”
Zuma’s response will be discussed on Monday at a meeting of the ANC’s 26-member national working committee, which oversees the running of the party on a day-to-day basis and will decide how to proceed, ANC spokeswoman Khusela Diko said by phone.
The working committee could convene a special meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee, which comprises 86 voting members and has the power to tell Zuma to go, or advise parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete to postpone the state-of-the-nation address, according to the officials. The party could also organise a caucus meeting in parliament to discuss ways to remove the president, such as bringing a no-confidence motion or supporting one from the opposition, they said.
Since taking the presidency in May 2009, Zuma’s tenure has been marred by a series of scandals, policy missteps and inappropriate appointments. Calls from within the party’s ranks for him to resign or be fired have intensified since his term as ANC leader ended. The party faces an increasing risk of losing the electoral majority it has enjoyed since it took power under Nelson Mandela in the first multi-racial elections in 1994.
“There is huge pressure on the ANC to rein in President Zuma once and for all to show that they are very serious about due process being followed and the fight against corruption,” Sethulego Matebesi, a political analyst at the University of the Free State, said by phone. “It will be a numbers game. There is a huge possibility that President Zuma may not deliver the state-of-the-nation address.”
The rand was 0.3% stronger against the dollar at R12.05 by 2.13pm in Johannesburg on Monday. The currency is the best performer in the world since Ramaphosa was elected, with investors expecting that Zuma would be replaced early and that the new administration would do a better job of managing the economy.
While Zuma has survived numerous efforts to remove him from office, he faces the first no-confidence motion — tabled by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters — in parliament on 22 February without being head of his party.
While Zuma can’t win the battle to see out his term, his exit is being mishandled by the party’s top leaders, Mathekga said.
“They announce things in the public space that should be done in private,” he said. “I think they have handled things in a way that has hardened President Zuma. Zuma feels a sense of injustice — he feels betrayed.” — Reported by Sam Mkokeli and Mike Cohen, (c) 2018 Bloomberg LP