Forty-five members of the NEC opposed Zuma, 41 backed him and the allegiances of the remaining 20 were unclear, the Sunday Times reported
Jacob Zuma is fighting to remain South Africa’s president as the top leadership of the ruling African National Congress resumed its debate of a proposal to recommend his removal from office.
The debate started Saturday in the capital, Pretoria, according to five members of the party’s national executive committee who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorised to speak publicly on the matter. The proposal came after weeks of mounting pressure on Zuma following his March 31 decision to remove Pravin Gordhan as finance minister in a cabinet purge. That move swelled the ranks of his opponents and prompted S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Ltd. to downgrade the nation’s sovereign credit rating to junk.
Forty-five members of the NEC opposed Zuma, 41 backed him and the allegiances of the remaining 20 were unclear, the Sunday Times reported, without saying where it got the information. The three-day meeting started on Friday.
Divisions in the party have widened since the ANC suffered its worst-ever electoral result when it lost control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, Pretoria, the capital, in a municipal vote in August. Three of its top six officials criticized Zuma’s decision to fire Gordhan, while Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who’s a rival to Zuma’s ex-wife to succeed him as party leader in December, said on May 21 that South Africa is threatened with becoming a “mafia state.”
While only parliament can legally force the president from office, the NEC could instruct Zuma, 75, to resign, as it did Thabo Mbeki in 2008, or tell its lawmakers who occupy 62 percent of the seats in the national legislature, to remove him. Zuma has said he’ll quit if the party orders him to.
The committee decided against a similar motion against Zuma in November. ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa didn’t answer calls seeking comment.
Zuma is due to step down as party leader in December and as president in 2019. Calls for his ouster have mounted since the nation’s top court ruled in March last year that he “failed to uphold, defend and respect the constitution” because he didn’t abide by a directive from the graft ombudsman to repay some of the 215.9 million rand ($16.8 million) spent on a swimming pool, animal enclosures and other upgrades to his private home.
A study by eight leading academics from four of the nation’s top universities released last week found that Zuma and his allies, including members of the Gupta family who are in business with his son, had carried out “a silent coup” that had enabled them to raid state assets and reap billions of rand from government contracts. Zuma and the Guptas have previously denied such allegations.
SAM MKOKELI AND PAUL VECCHIATTO