A senior source in South Africa’s African National Congress party says its executive committee decided to “recall,” or remove, President Jacob Zuma as head of state.
JOHANNESBURG — Many South Africans were relieved after the country’s ruling African National Congress party announced Tuesday that it would push for President Jacob Zuma to resign even as he resisted stepping down.
It’s a beginning to an end that has dragged on too long, said Nabila Patel, 33, who works in public relations in Johannesburg.
“We are positive about Zuma leaving because South Africa can begin its journey on the road to recovery,” said Patel. “I thought Zuma was an inadequate president … who showed signs of corruption and weakness.”
Although the president has not resigned yet, the leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) delivered a letter to the president early Tuesday officially informing him of the party’s decision to “recall” him at a meeting of its national executive committee, South African daily News24 reported.
ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule said it would happen soon enough.
“We are giving him time and space to respond,” he said at a press conference here. “We haven’t given him any deadline to respond (but) when we recall our (president), we expect (him) to do what the organization expects him to do.”
The president, however, is holding on – he refused to resign, the outlet reported. As a result, parliament is expected to hold a vote of no confidence this month to force him out. Presidents in South Africa are chosen by ruling party lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, not by voters directly.
And while Zuma has survived a number of such votes before, this time his supporters see him as a political liability and he won’t likely survive the measure.
“We know you want closure,” ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday to voters gathered to mark the 100 year anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, the country’s first black president.
That is because while the ANC has the stature of being the key player that fought white minority rule and is credited with the dismantling of apartheid almost 25 years ago, corruption scandals involving Zuma have sunk its popularity.
Lawmakers are now looking toward national elections in 2019.
“The (ANC) is undergoing a period of difficulty, disunity and discord … and (looking for) a new beginning,” said Ramaphosa. “Our people want this matter finalized, so the NEC is doing exactly that. We want closure.”
“We must work together as Madiba (Mandela) taught us,” he added.
Zuma, who took office in 2009, has been embroiled in corruption scandals throughout most of his two terms. Late last year, South Africa’s top court ruled that he violated the constitution when he paid for multi-million-dollar upgrades to his private home with state funds. Soon, a judicial commission is expected to begin examining allegations of influence peddling and illegal contracts to Zuma cronies while prosecutors are mulling reviving corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago. Zuma has denied all charges.
Still he has allies, especially in his home state of Kwazulu-Natal. And he has the legacy of a freedom fighter: Zuma has been part of the ANC for almost six decades and led the intelligence arm of the movement’s underground military wing. He was jailed for 10 years on Robben Island where Mandela was also held.
Ramaphosa, Zuma’s expected successor, has held private talks with the president on a power transition setting off concern about backroom deals and the governing style of the country’s possible next leader.
“I have got mixed feelings,” said Johan Van Vuren, 32, a photographer in Johannesburg. “Zuma was an idiot, and I am happy he is out. At this moment there is not much worse than him, and it can only get better.”
“But I don’t really know if Ramaphose can be trusted,” he added. “I know all the controversy about Zuma but the fact that (Ramaphose) has to force Zuma out of his presidency early — which is how he became president in the first place — makes me wonder if we’re not in for more of the same.”
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