Friday 17 August 2018

Zuma 'recalled' after refusing to go immediately

South African president given an ultimatum by ANC to step down

South African President Jacob Zuma has been told to stand down Photo: AFP/Getty Images
South African President Jacob Zuma has been told to stand down Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Peta Thornycroft

South Africa's ruling party says the scandal-tainted President Jacob Zuma must leave office.

Ace Magashule, secretary general of the African National Congress (ANC), confirmed the party's national executive committee has decided to "recall" Mr Zuma, who has been discredited by corruption scandals.

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule yesterday
ANC secretary general Ace Magashule yesterday

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Mr Magashule said Mr Zuma previously had agreed to resign but wanted to stay in office for several more months, a condition that the party committee rejected.

If Mr Zuma refuses his party's instruction, the matter could go to parliament for a vote on a motion of no confidence.

Mr Zuma's presidency has been marred by corruption scandals, slow economic growth and record unemployment that have fuelled public anger in Africa's most developed country.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president, told a meeting of the African National Congress's leaders on Monday night that Mr Zuma had 48 hours to resign or face dismissal in a no-confidence debate in parliament later this week.

After a nine-hour meeting, the ANC's 86-member National Executive Committee (NEC) agreed to "recall" Mr Zuma from his position. Mr Ramaphosa then left the meeting at midnight and took the ultimatum to Mr Zuma at his official residence in Pretoria, according to the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the 'Cape Times'.

He told Mr Zuma, whose term as head of state is not up until next year, that if he does not resign by midnight tonight he will be sacked by parliament where the ANC has a 62pc majority. All South Africa's 13 opposition party MP's would vote with the ANC.

Earlier on Monday, in a long and politically charged day, South Africa's opposition parties called for parliament to be dissolved and early elections to be held while the ANC remained locked in talks on whether or not to recall Mr Zuma.

The president has faced a barrage of calls to step down in recent weeks.

Mr Ramaphosa has been negotiating with Mr Zuma over the terms of an early exit for days before he called a special meeting of the 86 member NEC, including several cabinet ministers loyal to Mr Zuma, to decide whether or not the party should recall the president.

In a speech on Sunday afternoon, Mr Ramaphosa said the matter of Mr Zuma's leaving office would be "finalised" during an NEC meeting.

Earlier in the day the SABC, South Africa's public broadcaster, said Mr Zuma had agreed to step down, but the president's spokesman denied the reports, calling them "fake news".

As the talks carried on, several opposition parties issued a joint ultimatum demanding that a vote of no confidence against Mr Zuma, currently scheduled for February 22, be moved forward to this week, so that parliament be dissolved and that fresh elections be held.

"To think that when Zuma leaves our problems are going to disappear, that is disingenuous," said Julius Malema, head of the radical Left Economic Freedom Fighters.

"The problem is not Zuma. The problem is not Cyril. The problem is the ANC. So the ANC must be voted out."

Several cabinet ministers loyal to Mr Zuma and who were in the difficult NEC meeting are likely to lose their jobs when Mr Ramaphosa becomes president of South Africa, either after Mr Zuma's resignation or following his departure via the vote of no confidence.

The ANC looks forward to an "amicable solution" and "it's obvious" that the party wants Mr Ramaphosa to succeed Mr Zuma, the secretary-general said. Mr Ramaphosa was elected party leader in December and has vowed to fight corruption.

Mr Zuma, who took office in 2009 and is in his second five-year term, has not made any public appearances in recent days. He met with ruling party leaders who visited him at his Pretoria residence late Monday and again yesterday morning to ask him to quit. Mr Magashule described the discussions as "cordial".

South Africa, which has one of Africa's biggest economies, has faced extended uncertainty over Mr Zuma's fate. Government leaders hope the standoff can be resolved ahead of the unveiling of the national budget in parliament on February 21, which would go some way toward reassuring investors that the country is getting back on track.

"We are determined to restore the integrity of the public institutions, create political stability and urgent economic recovery," Mr Magashule, once a staunch supporter of Mr Zuma, told reporters.

The ANC once commanded moral stature as the party of Nelson Mandela, but scandals linked to Mr Zuma, who denies wrongdoing, have cut into its popularity. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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