Tuesday 20 February 2018

ANC pressure for Zuma to stand down grows

Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma

Alexander Winning

South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) met yesterday to discuss President Jacob Zuma's future amid growing pressure on the 75-year-old leader to step down as head of state over corruption allegations and a weakened economy.

Mr Zuma, in power since 2009, has been deserted by prominent allies since being replaced in December as ANC leader by Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's deputy president, who is now lobbying behind the scenes for him to step down as president too.

But talks on Sunday night with top ANC officials failed to persuade him to quit, and a group of Zuma loyalists said they would march on the party's headquarters in downtown Johannesburg, Luthuli House, in support of the president.

ANC officials said the party had summoned its National Working Committee (NWC) to meet at Luthuli House yesterday.

The NWC handles the day-to-day running of the ANC, which has run South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

It would need to call a meeting of the National Executive Committee to force Mr Zuma to quit.

Asked about the ongoing talks surrounding Mr Zuma, ANC spokeswoman Khusela Diko said: "There is no crisis within the ANC, we are used to robust discussions."

The ANC's six most powerful officials met Mr Zuma late on Sunday at his official residence in Pretoria, but there was no announcement of the outcome.

After the pro-Zuma group Black First Land First announced its march, a pro-Ramaphosa faction of the ANC said it would "defend" Luthuli House.

The ANC said it respected the right of citizens to protest in a disciplined and peaceful manner.

The rand, which has tended to strengthen on signs that Mr Zuma could step down before his second term as president ends next year, was slightly firmer yesterday.

Opposition parties and some in the ANC want Mr Zuma to go before his state of the nation address to parliament, scheduled for Thursday.

Mr Zuma has not said in public whether he will step down voluntarily.

But he faces a new confidence-vote in parliament against his leadership on February 22 filed by the opposition far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF).

Unlike in August when Mr Zuma survived a no-confidence vote, a significant portion of the ANC now wants him gone. If he lost the vote, his entire cabinet would have to step down.

Irish Independent

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