END GAME LOOMS FOR JACOB ZUMA
African National Congress leader Cyril Ramaphosa will outline “progress” on the question of President Jacob Zuma’s future on Wednesday, South Africa’s parliament speaker said, amid persistent speculation a deal is in the works for him to resign.
Zuma, in power since 2009 and beset by corruption allegations, has been in a weakened position since Deputy President Ramaphosa replaced him as ANC leader in December.
The 75-year-old has been South Africa’s most controversial president since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, overseeing a tumultuous nine years marked by economic decline and numerous allegations of corruption.
The ANC had scheduled an urgent meeting for Wednesday evening of its national executive – which has the power to instruct Zuma to resign – but postponed it late on Tuesday after “constructive” talks between Zuma and Ramaphosa.
The delay increased speculation that a deal for Zuma to resign had been ironed out. Times Live, an online news service, quoted sources as saying Zuma would resign as soon as a list of preconditions had been finalised.
Zuma was seen entering his Cape Town offices on Wednesday morning, according to footage broadcast on local television. He is due to take part in cabinet committee meetings during the day, his office said in a statement.
Speaker Baleka Mbete suggested South Africans would get clarity on his fate within hours.
“In this day there will be some progress which the president of the ANC will be ready to come back to us about,” she told the eNCA television channel.
Zuma’s spokesman declined to comment on Mbete’s remarks.
The machinations within the ANC are an ironic recycling of history for Zuma, who engineered the ouster of former president Thabo Mbeki in 2008 shortly after taking over the helm of the ANC.
He has not said whether he will resign voluntarily before his second term as president ends next year.
The rand, which has tended to strengthen on signs that Zuma could step down early, was jittery on Wednesday as traders awaited clarity on the political drama.
Ramaphosa has put the focus on rooting out corruption and revitalizing economic growth since defeating Zuma’s preferred successor, Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in the ANC leadership race.
The former union leader has said he does not want to humiliate Zuma but has been lobbying behind the scenes for him to step down early.
Zuma still retains the support of a faction within the ANC but has seen several prominent party allies desert him recently.
He is still fighting nearly 800 counts of corruption over an arms deal from the late 1990s and his ties with the Gupta brothers, a family of wealthy Indian-born businessmen, are the subject of a judicial inquiry on grand-level corruption.
The Guptas and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.
Zuma also faces another no-confidence vote against his leadership in parliament on Feb. 22, brought by the ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters party.