At the same time, the events of the previous 24 hours were a clear sign of how much has changed in the two months since Mr. Ramaphosa was chosen to succeed Mr. Zuma as the leader of the A.N.C., creating what South Africans refer to as the two centers of power.
Mr. Zuma, seemingly untouchable just a couple of months ago, is now almost certain to lose the presidency, either through a resignation or through a vote in Parliament.
The police’s investigative unit — which has long been subject to political interference — is now investigating the Guptas, a powerful family who appeared to operate above the law under Mr. Zuma’s protection.
Analysts here said it was no coincidence that heavily armed police officers had raided the Guptas’ luxury compound and carried out arrests even as Mr. Zuma appeared to dither over whether to address the nation. The intended message, they said, was that those closest to Mr. Zuma, or even Mr. Zuma himself, could be next unless he acceded to the party’s order to quit, well before his term as president was scheduled to expire in mid-2019.
That order had come a day earlier, in an extraordinary moment in the history of the A.N.C., from party leaders to a president they had shielded for nearly nine years through a series of scandals and corruption charges.
Ace Magashule, the party’s secretary general, said that Mr. Zuma has been given no deadline but was sure to reply by Wednesday. Mr. Magashule, a longtime ally of the president, added that the party was not preparing a motion of no confidence against him in Parliament if he refused to resign.
But, in an indication of lingering party division, other high-ranking officials issued stronger warnings on Tuesday. Gwede Mantashe, the party’s chairman and an ally of Mr. Ramaphosa, said that Mr. Zuma had been given the chance to resign on his own.
“Once you resist, we are going to let you be thrown out through the vote of no confidence, because you disrespect the organization and you disobey it,” Mr. Mantashe said. “Therefore we are going to let you be devoured by the vultures.”
The A.N.C.’s difficult position was on clear display on Tuesday. At a news conference at its headquarters in Johannesburg, Mr. Magashule — who is third in the party’s hierarchy and who has traditionally acted as its spokesman — struggled to explain why the party was asking for Mr. Zuma’s resignation.
Mr. Magashule said that the ethical challenges that the president was facing had played no role, saying, “We did not take these decisions because Comrade Jacob Zuma has done anything wrong.”
Mr. Magashule’s remarks suggested the party might be reluctant to deal head-on with the culture of corruption that was endemic under Mr. Zuma.
The reason he gave for the party’s move was that Mr. Zuma’s continued presence as the nation’s leader would “erode the renewed hope and confidence among South Africans” since party elections in December, in which Mr. Ramaphosa defeated Mr. Zuma’s preferred candidate for the leadership of the A.N.C.
Mr. Magashule indicated that Mr. Zuma was hurting the party’s electoral prospects, a point that Mr. Ramaphosa’s allies had emphasized. In the 2016 local elections, the A.N.C. lost control over the nation’s biggest cities after it was deserted by traditional supporters disillusioned by Mr. Zuma’s conduct; some party officials have since warned that it might face a similar fate in national elections in 2019.
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