South Africa

South Africa’s ruling ANC will order President Zuma to quit, after he refuses to go quietly

A parliamentary vote may still be required to oust the scandal-struck Zuma

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2018, 12:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2018, 10:51pm

South Africa’s ruling party has decided to replace Jacob Zuma as president but has not set a deadline for him to step down, African National Congress Secretary-General Ace Magashule said.

The ANC’s National Executive Committee decided to “recall” Zuma, 75, during a 13-hour meeting that ended early on Tuesday. While Zuma had agreed to resign, he wanted to remain in office for up to six months, Magashule told reporters on Tuesday in Johannesburg. The committee’s decision to replace him marked the failure of efforts to convince Zuma to agree to an amicable transfer of power from his scandal-ridden administration to one headed by party leader Cyril Ramaphosa.

“While appreciating president Zuma’s proposal, the NEC noted that South Africa is going through a period of uncertainty and anxiety as a result of the unresolved matter of transition,” Magashule said. “The NEC firmly believed this situation required us to act with urgency.

“The decision by the NEC to recall its deployee was taken only after exhaustive discussion on the impact such a recall would have on the country, the ANC and the functioning of government.”

Magashule said he expected Zuma to respond on Wednesday to its decision. If he does not, the ANC may have to order its lawmakers in parliament to approve a motion of no confidence in the president. The political impasse already forced the unprecedented postponement of last week’s scheduled annual state-of-the-nation address and may imperil the presentation of the budget on February 21.

Magashule said the party has not proposed a no-confidence motion.

“Zuma is clearly digging in, fearing what could come next should he resign prematurely,” Mark Schroeder, vice-president of Africa analysis at geopolitical advisory company Stratfor. “It’s an open question whether the ANC members of parliament will vote with the multiple opposition parties to compel the president to resign.”

The party committee can “recall” the head of state, essentially forcing him to step down, but he is under no constitutional obligation to obey.

A parliamentary vote of no-confidence within days would be required to oust him.

The ANC is trying to remove Zuma allow Ramaphosa, 65, to take over as president more than a year before the 2019 elections, giving him time to convince voters that he’s committed to meeting his pledges to rebuild a battered economy and clamp down on the graft that critics say has become synonymous with the Zuma era.

South Africa’s opposition parties want the National Assembly to debate a motion of no confidence in Zuma this week and for parliament to be dissolved immediately after that ahead of an early election. The Economic Freedom Fighters, the third-biggest party, last month proposed the no-confidence motion that’s currently due to be debated on February 22, and plans to go to court if it isn’t brought forward.

A lawyer and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, Ramaphosa is widely expected to adopt more business-friendly policies, prompting the rand to rise more than any other currency against the dollar since his election as ANC leader in December.

The ANC’s former head of intelligence, Zuma took office in May 2009, just weeks after prosecutors dropped graft charges against him. He spent years fighting a bid by opposition parties to have those charges reinstated and fending off allegations that he allowed members of the Gupta family, who are in business with one of his sons, to influence cabinet appointments and the award of state contracts.

Policy Missteps

Under Zuma, economic growth has averaged just 1.6 per cent a year since he took office in 2009, undermined partly by a series of policy missteps and inappropriate appointments that rocked investor and business confidence.

Disgruntlement with his rule caused support for the ANC to fall in 2016 municipal elections and cost it control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital.

Zuma’s second and final term was due to end around mid-2019. He survived two previous bids to topple him in the ANC’s NEC since November 2016, but the balance of power in the panel shifted after Ramaphosa won the party presidency.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse