South Africa's ANC demands President Jacob Zuma step down
In this May 2, 2014, file photo, an election poster of President Jacob Zuma is defaced in the downtown area of Johannesburg, South Africa. (Ben Curtis/AP) February 13 at 7:22 AM
JOHANNESBURG â" South Africaâs ruling African National Congress party announced Tuesday it had recalled President Jacob Zuma, leaving South Africans waiting to see whether the president will abide by the partyâs decision and hand in his resignation.
If Zuma decides not to resign, it will force a no confidence vote in the Parliament. While he has survived many such votes in the past, the party has increasingly turned against him as corruption allegations have mounted.
âWe are giving him time and space to res pond. We havenât given him any deadline to respond,â ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule told reporters on Tuesday in Johannesburg. âWhen we recall our deployee, we expect our deployee to do what the organization expects him to doâ¦ I donât know what will happen. Letâs leave it to President Jacob Zuma.â
Pressure on Zuma, who is 75, to resign has been mounting since December, when Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him as head of the party.
Zuma came to power in 2009, but his last years in office have been mired in a series of high-profile corruption scandals and accusations of mismanagement that has seen a steady decline in the popularity of Nelson Mandelaâs storied liberation movement.South Africaâs ruling African National Congress gave President Jacob Zuma 48 hours to resign as head of state on Feb. 12. Zuma, who took office in 2009, has been embroiled in corruption scandals. (Reuters)
Several local media outlets reported early Tu esday that a defiant Zuma had refused to resign in the face of party pressure.
If the party does indeed recall Zuma and he resigns, Ramaphosa would become acting president, according to South African law.
If Zuma loses that motion of no confidence, he and his cabinet would be forced to step down and the parliamentary speaker would assume the role of acting president, says Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution.
âThe one thing weâve learned is never to try to guess what Zuma might do,â said Naidoo. âHeâs a desperate man at the moment.â
The extraordinary 24 hours follows a chaotic political week in South Africa, in which Ramaphosa and Zuma sat in closed-door talks to negotiate the terms of his exit. On Sunday, during a speech in Cape Town, Ramaphosa pledged that the partyâs top brass would âfinalizeâ those talks on Monday.
âOur people want this matter to be finaliz ed, the national executive committee (NEC) will be doing precisely that,â Ramaphosa said. âIt is the interests of you, our people, that must be put first, and not the interests of anyone else.â
Cyril Ramaphosa elected president of South Africaâs ruling party
To Zumaâs critics, the presidentâs early departure â" his term as head of state is not up until national elections next year â" would mark the end of a frustrating era in which the nation drifted and Zumaâs name has become nearly synonymous with the use of the public office for personal gain.
An anti-apartheid struggle veteran with a knack for connecting with his rural base, many South Africans welcomed Zumaâs election in 2009 after the technocratic government Thabo Mbeki.
Ironically, Zuma could be ousted by the same methods he once orchestrated against Mbeki.
Mbeki sacked Zuma in 2005 from his post as deputy president after Zuma was implicated in corruption allegations . After his ouster, Zuma maneuvered his way back to power and was elected ANC president in a stunning political comeback just two years later.
In 2008, Mbeki was recalled as president by the Zuma-led party after a court ruled Mbeki interfered in the work of government prosecutors. Mbeki followed the partyâs lead and resigned from office, paving the way for Zumaâs ascent as head of state.
But nearly a decade later, many of the promises of a better life in a democratic South Africa have slipped away on Zumaâs watch. The number of people living in poverty and extreme poverty both increased by some 3 million between 2011 and 2015. Unemployment hovers at more than 27 percent. The under-resourced public health and education sectors struggle to deliver to nearly 57 million South Africans, and the economy, one of the largest and most sophisticated in Africa, dipped briefly into recession last year.
South Africans have also become fed up with a series of corruption allegations engulfing Zuma and some of his family members and friends.
A wily political operator, Zuma has become the ultimate âTeflon presidentâ in recent years, surviving several opposition-led attempts in parliament to unseat him. Opposition politicians have also been trying â" unsuccessfully, so far â" to get 18 charges of fraud, corruption and other crimes against him reinstated that were dropped before he became president. He has denied the charges.
In March 2016, Zuma was found to have âfailed to upholdâ the constitution after ignoring an order by the governmentâs anti-corruption watchdog to pay back millions spent on nonsecurity upgrades to his private estate, Nkandla, including a swimming pool and cattle pen. Zuma apologized to the nation and paid back the mandated sum of money.
In October that same year, the watchdog had another instruction for Zuma: appoint a commission of inquiry into allegations that a wealthy family, the Guptas, used t heir proximity to Zuma to build up their business empire. A subsequent flood of emails leaked to the South African press, known as the âGupta Leaks,â catalogued more examples of similar alleged improprieties and infuriated South African voters. Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing.
Should Ramaphosa become the next president, many South Africans hope the 65-year-old businessman and anti-apartheid activist will put South Africa on a new path, taking on corruption and restoring the reputation of Africaâs oldest liberation movement.
âLeaders make a difference. It changes the atmosphere,â said William Gumede, executive chairman of the Democracy Works Foundation. âIt potentially could be a kind of Mandela moment.â
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