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South Africa's Political Crisis Deepens Over Embattled President

Members of the media gather outside a hotel where members of the African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee are meeting to decide the fate of President Jacob Zuma, in Pretoria, South Africa, Feb. 12, 2018.

South Africa's tense political crisis reached a peak Monday as leaders of the ruling African National Congress met to demand President Jacob Zuma's resignation. But after more than a week of unsuccessful negotiations, the opposition vowed that is not the end of the nation's political turmoil and called for early elections to replace Zuma.

The coalition of opposition parties said they are seeking to move up a planned no-confidence vote in parliament, the ninth such vote Zuma has faced. Previous votes have failed because Zuma enjoyed the support of the ruling party, which he has now lost.

An opposition coalition led by the Democratic Alliance and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters says it will demand parliament be dissolved and early elections held once Zuma is out.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema says the opposition is not content to allow Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to hold Zuma's seat until elections in mid-2019.

"They want Zuma to go because it is the time for Cyril's group to eat," he said. "And they call it a transition.Transition from what? It can not be a transition, it is not a transition. That is an abuse of concepts. It is factions changing, swapping seats. ... It's a swappie, from one corrupt failure to another corrupt failure."

President Jacob Zuma leaves Tuynhuys, the office of the Presidency at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, Feb. 7, 2018.
President Jacob Zuma leaves Tuynhuys, the office of the Presidency at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, Feb. 7, 2018.

The opposition and many South Africans have been calling for Zuma to step down for years as he sank deeper into growing, widening corruption scandals, protected by the ANC's comfortable majority in parliament.

But since the ANC replaced Zuma as party head in December, Ramaphosa, his successor as party leader, has been working to push him out of the presidency as well. This past week, top ANC members met privately with Zuma to try to convince him to resign.

Ramaphosa said Sunday the ANC knew South Africans were losing patience.

"The successful resolution of this matter has great, significant consequences for the country and for the African National Congress," he said. "... We know you want closure on this matter. Comrades, as you do want closure, we will be doing so, keeping our eyes on what is in the interests of all of our people and how we continue to unite the nation."

But Ramaphosa's new job will not be easy, especially if the opposition makes headway in its quest to push him out, says analyst Daniel Silke.

"But I think Ramaphosa is a wily character, someone who has the ear of both domestic and foreign business interests in South Africa," he said. "And there is a large body of South Africans, ordinary South Africans, who are desperate for political change and will give him the benefit of the doubt, even if he has to compromise on some of these challenges he will face."

And, Zuma is unlikely to enjoy an easy retirement. He could face numerous corruption investigations, including a pending case that includes 783 charges of corruption.