Defiant Zuma Dares South Africa’s Ruling Party to Fire Him

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South African President Jacob Zuma is in a head-to-head struggle with the top leaders of his own party after he defied their call to step down.

Zuma, 75, refused to resign following an appeal by Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced him as head of the African National Congress in December, and its other top five officials on Sunday night, according to five senior party members with knowledge of the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity. Zuma, whose second and final term as ANC leader is due to end around mid-2019, is scheduled to deliver the annual state-of-the-nation address on Feb. 8.

“I think he knows he has to go. It’s not winnable,” said Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst based in Johannesburg. “I think he is going ahead with the state-of-the-nation address. Logistically it is becoming impossible to have someone else do it.”

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Zuma’s response will be discussed on Monday at a meeting of the ANC’s 26-member National Working Committee, which oversees the running of the party on a day-to-day basis and will decide how to proceed, ANC spokeswoman Khusela Diko said by phone.

The working committee could convene a special meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee, which comprises 86 voting members and has the power to tell Zuma to go, or advise parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete to postpone the state-of-the-nation address, according to the officials. The party could also organize a caucus meeting in parliament to discuss ways to removing the president, such as bringing a no-confidence motion or supporting one from the opposition, they said.

Since taking the helm of Africa’s most industrialized nation in May 2009, Zuma’s tenure has been marred by a series of scandals, policy missteps and inappropriate appointments. Calls from within the party’s ranks for him to resign or be fired have intensified since his term as ANC leader ended. The party faces an increasing risk of losing the electoral majority it has enjoyed since it took power under Nelson Mandela in the first multiracial elections in 1994.

Huge Pressure



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