Leaders of South Africa’s ruling party have delivered an ultimatum to President Jacob Zuma, giving him 48 hours to respond to the party’s order for him to resign, according to media reports citing sources close to the national executive committee of the African National Congress.
If Zuma agrees to step down, then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will likely become president. However, if Zuma refuses to resign he will then face a vote of no confidence in parliament next week.
Disgraced by a series of corruption scandals, although he claims he has done no wrong, Zuma still retains support within the ruling party and the parliamentary vote could be tight.
Citing unidentified ANC sources, South African media say Zuma has asked for state security for his family, payment of legal fees and a few more months in office.
The decision that Zuma should leave office came after a 13-hour meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee that ended early Tuesday.
The impasse over the presidency has highlighted the disarray within a party that previously was the main movement against white minority rule and has led South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. The ANC once commanded moral stature as the party of Nelson Mandela, but corruption scandals linked to Zuma have cut into its popularity ahead of national elections in 2019.
An opposition-backed motion of no confidence had been scheduled for Feb. 22, but its sponsors want the vote to be moved up to this week. Zuma has survived similar motions against him in the past, but many ruling party members now see him as a political liability and would likely vote against him.
Ramaphosa has held private talks with the president on a power transition, angering opposition parties who described the process as an affront to South African democracy. Last week, Ramaphosa promised a “speedy resolution” to the discussions, but the protracted standoff has raised questions about the political clout of the man poised to lead the country.
ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and his deputy, Jessie Duarte, delivered the party’s recall letter to Zuma at his official residence in Pretoria.
At a news briefing after the ANC meeting, Magashule said he expects Zuma to heed the order to step down and to respond by Wednesday.
Magashule said the ANC is looking forward to an “amicable solution” and that “it’s obvious” the party wants Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma.
South Africa’s top court had ruled that Zuma violated the country’s constitution following an investigation of multi-million-dollar upgrades to his private home that were paid by the state.
A judicial commission is about to start a probe of alleged looting of state enterprises by Zuma’s associates, and prosecutors are expected to announce soon whether they will reinstate corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago.
Zuma, 75, took office in 2009 and is in his second five-year term.