ANC to decide “matter of serious concern” in Zuma showdown on Wednesday

By James Macharia. JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – African National Congress leaders weighing the future of South Africa’s Jacob Zuma will decide a “matter of serious concern” on Wednesday, a senior official said, heralding what could be a bid to unseat a president besieged by corruption allegations.

Zuma, whose presidency has been marred by graft scandals and economic decline, has been in a weakened position since he was replaced as leader of the ANC by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in December.

The ANC has called a special meeting of its decision-making National Executive Committee (NEC) for Wednesday, at which analysts have said some members of the party could call for Zuma to resign.

Facing a no-confidence motion in parliament set for Feb. 22, Zuma has survived several attempts to oust him in the past. But this time around a significant part of the ANC wants him to step down well before his second term ends mid next year.

ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte told a news conference that senior party officials who met on Monday would take a proposal to the NEC for discussion on Wednesday, but she declined to disclose the proposal.

Analysts said the proposal was likely to be on Zuma’s future.

She said the NEC would discuss an issue of great public interest and announce its decision after the meeting.

“We will be discussing a matter of serious concern to all of us within the ANC, and of course a matter of great public interest to the people of South Africa,” she said.

“A vote of no-confidence is not desirable, under any circumstances. Our most important consideration is that we don’t believe South Africa should wish for us to embarrass the president of the republic, in any way whatsoever,” Duarte said.

“We will tell you exactly what the NEC has decided post our meeting.”


The ANC’s top six most powerful officials met Zuma late on Sunday at his official residence in Pretoria but there was no announcement of the outcome. Analysts said the senior officials had met Zuma to ask him to step down.

Duarte and party secretary-general and top-six member Ace Magashule have backed Zuma.

Some within the ANC and the opposition have said the Gupta family, friends of Zuma, have used their links with the president to win work with the state. The Guptas and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.

Zuma is due to deliver a state of the nation address to parliament on Thursday, but opposition parties have said he should step down before then.

The speaker of parliament said that the request to postpone Zuma’s address “is receiving consideration”.

Opposition parties want the speech postponed until after a no-confidence vote on Zuma’s leadership on Feb. 22.

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


Zuma meanwhile was chairing routine cabinet committee meetings on Tuesday and not holding a “special cabinet meeting” as reported in local media, his spokesman said, as pressure mounted on the scandal-plagued leader to step down.

Bongani Ngqulunga said a full cabinet meeting was scheduled for Feb. 14, dismissing speculation in domestic media the embattled president had called a meeting to discuss his future with his cabinet colleagues.

Ngqulunga said Zuma and Ramaphosa were chairing Tuesday’s cabinet committee meetings at the president’s official residence in Cape Town. Zuma normally holds cabinet meetings on Wednesdays.

“It’s a routine meeting of cabinet committees, there is no special cabinet meeting going on,” said Ngqulunga.

“Cabinet will meet next week on Wednesday. It meets twice a month, and the committee meetings meet in the weeks leading up to the meetings, to prepare for the cabinet meetings,” he said.

The influential Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement “time is of the essence – Zuma must go”.

Leader of the official opposition and head of the Democratic Alliance party Mmusi Maimane said in a statement: “We need a new beginning. We don’t need false hope and empty promises.”

On Monday, Zuma met Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, the influential traditional head of South Africa’s biggest ethnic group in the president’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal. At the same time top ANC officials were discussing Zuma’s future at a meeting at the party’s headquarters in downtown Johannesburg.

A Zulu royal house insider told the BusinessDay newspaper that Zuma had refused a request from the Zulu king on Monday that he resign. Zuma had declined to resign saying that “if he resigns now it would mean that he would [be] admitting that he had done something wrong”, the insider told the newspaper.

(Additional reporting by Alexander Winning in Johannesburg and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Writing by James Macharia, Editing by William Maclean)


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