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S. Africa Political Leader Hints at Impending End for Unpopular President

  • Anita Powell

FILE - Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general of the Africa National Congress, speaks during the party media briefing in Johannesburg, April 5, 2017.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has been hurt by a new wave of corruption allegations targeting President Jacob Zuma, with the top party brass saying Wednesday that the end may be nearing for the increasingly unpopular leader.

“We’ve got a brand to protect as a current leadership as the next leadership will have the same responsibility," party spokesman Zizi Kodwa told journalists. "The more the allegation of corruption is repeated, about any member of the ANC, it damages the ANC ... We’re dealing with difficulties, it’s not like people who gave them a mandate, that ‘go and do corruption.’ There’s not such a policy in the ANC. It’s people who are independent in their own area of work. They do things that at the end, they come back to hit the organization.”

New corruption allegations were spelled out in thousands of recently leaked emails that purport to show that a rich Indian family in South Africa, the Guptas, unduly influenced the president and government. Kodwa says the party does not tolerate corruption, and has called for a judicial commission of inquiry.

FILE - South Africa's President Jacob Zuma addresses an anti-crime meeting in Elsie's River, Cape Town, South Africa, May 30, 2017.
FILE - South Africa's President Jacob Zuma addresses an anti-crime meeting in Elsie's River, Cape Town, South Africa, May 30, 2017.

Zuma, whose term as party leader expires at the end of this year, is at the center of these recent allegations. Party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe hinted that the party’s leadership will make a decision then that could see Zuma sidelined before his presidential term ends in 2019. Zuma originally rose to power in 2008, after the party chose him to replace then-party leader Thabo Mbeki. Mbeki then stepped down as president.

Mantashe refused to say what might afterward become of Zuma — who is mired in a court battle after old corruption charges were reinstated against him last year.

“All I’m saying is that beyond December, his term ends in 2019," he said. "But I’m saying on the 20th December, the debate becomes less complex. But I don’t want to handle that now.”

He also refused to say who the new party leader — and therefore the ANC’s next presidential candidate — might be. Possibilities include the current deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former head of the African Union and ex-wife of President Zuma.

FILE - Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, then-chairperson of the African Union Commission, attends the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta, Malta, Nov. 12, 2015.
FILE - Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, then-chairperson of the African Union Commission, attends the Valletta Summit on Migration in Valletta, Malta, Nov. 12, 2015.

“We’ll elect a new leadership of the ANC," he said. "Don’t ask us who will be the president, we do not know.”

Mantashe and other party stalwarts who spoke to journalists Wednesday also did not give a clear timeline for how long the commission of inquiry into the allegations could take.

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