SA’s tense wait for Zuma’s next move

Jacob Zuma
File picture: Jackie Clausen

All eyes are on the Union Buildings in Pretoria today where President Jacob Zuma is expected to address the nation at 10am.

This follows the decision of the ANC national executive committee (NEC), after marathon talks that concluded in the early hours of yesterday, to recall him as head of state.

A cabinet meeting planned for today has also been postponed indefinitely amid expectations that Zuma will resign.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule told TimesLIVE last night that Zuma had notified the party that he wanted to hold a media conference at 10am.

Other sources confirmed that television broadcasters had been alerted to the briefing, though the Presidency had not yet confirmed this.

“At the moment I can’t speculate on what he is going to say,” Magashule said. “It is not my press conference.”

Earlier, ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe told a meeting in the Eastern Cape that the party had given Zuma an ultimatum to resign or face a motion of no confidence.

“Once you resist, we are going to let you be thrown out through the vote of no confidence because you disrespect the organisation and you disobey it, therefore we are going to let you be devoured by the vultures,” Mantashe said in a message to Zuma.

Zuma is already facing a no-confidence motion in parliament set for February 22 and brought by the EFF.

The ANC could throw its weight behind such a vote if Zuma did not resign, economist John Ashbourne said.

But it would be a painful option for the party.

“Instructing MPs to vote with the opposition and against their own leader would add to splits in the party and provide an embarrassing political coup to the opposition,” he said.

Zuma’s entire cabinet would have to step down if such a vote went through.

Magashule told a media conference yesterday that leading members of the party wanted ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa to replace Zuma as state president.

He said Zuma had agreed to step down‚ but only after three to six months.

However‚ this had been rejected by the NEC, which had decided to recall Zuma.

While Magashule was at pains to state that there was no deadline for Zuma to respond to the decision‚ he said he was sure it would happen by today.

It is understood that the ANC caucus in the National Assembly has been tasked by the NEC with setting out a strategy for his removal should he refuse to heed the recall.

The ANC chief whip has been instructed to brief the caucus, which is expected to meet today as the ANC awaits a response from Zuma.

According to sources in the NEC meeting, which started at 2pm on Monday afternoon and dragged on into the early hours of yesterday, the possibility of court action against the recall was also raised.

This emerged amid reports that Transform SA – a Zuma-aligned lobby group – had launched a legal bid to challenge the outcome of the NEC meeting.

According to senior ANC leaders, Zuma was “very angry” and may not resign voluntarily.

Save South Africa’s Sipho Pityana said the decision to recall Zuma was long overdue.

“He’s shown himself prepared to defy not only the values of the ANC, but to defy the leadership of the ANC that has been trying to persuade him to resign and [by so doing] plant the country into crisis,” he said.

Pityana said it was of utmost importance for the leadership of the ANC, after many years of untrustworthy leadership from Zuma, to make sure there was a full account of what the negotiations with him were about.

“We believe it would be important to allow for a process in parliament to remove a president who was, after all, elected by parliament.”

Pityana urged all political parties to put aside their differences to reflect society’s consensus for Zuma to leave at the earliest opportunity.

South African Council of Churches provincial president Bishop Andile Mbete welcomed the decision to recall Zuma but said it was still open-ended.

“There’s a chance of another delay in terms of implementing it but, nevertheless, our duty is to pray that sanity will prevail,” he said.

“The quicker, the better for the country and God’s people.”

The Thabo Mbeki Foundation also welcomed the decision.

“It has been obvious for many years that the interests of our country would be best served if Mr Zuma ceased to be president of the Republic,” the foundation said.

“As a disciplined and loyal cadre of the ANC and out of respect for the constitution of the country, Mr Zuma must tender his resignation.”

Meanwhile, National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams has given the prosecution team dealing with Zuma’s corruption, fraud and racketeering charges until February 23 to provide their recommendations.

This is after Zuma made fresh representations last month on why he should not be prosecuted.

– Additional reporting by AFP

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