JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's ruling party said Monday it is considering whether to order President Jacob Zuma to step down as head of state.
"We have not arrived at any decision that Zuma must go or Zuma must not go," African National Congress (ANC) Secretary- General Ace Magashule told the press after a four-day meeting of the party's National Executive Committee. He denied local media reports that Zuma's departure was imminent.
Zuma, whose scandal-plagued tenure has hurt the popularity of Africa's oldest liberation party and the country's economy, has come under increasing pressure to step down since being replaced as party leader in December by Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's deputy president. Ramaphosa is widely expected to follow Zuma as head of state.
The ANC's constitution gives the party's leadership the authority to recall a president. In 2008 the party ordered Thabo Mbeki to resign as president, which he did.
Critics of Zuma both inside and outside the ANC have said he should step aside as soon as possible to allow the ruling party time to restore voter confidence ahead of national elections scheduled for next year.
Ramaphosa, who was elected by a narrow margin at the party conference at the end of last year, has vowed to crack down on corruption, rebuild the economy, and reunite Nelson Mandela's deeply fractured movement.
Though Magashule denied that there was any "timeline" for Zuma to step down or be recalled by the party, some observers say the president's early departure from office now looks inevitable.
The fact that the ANC committee even discussed Zuma leaving is an admission that the president is a "liability," said Mcebisi Ndletyana, a politics professor at the University of Johannesburg.
"The only conclusion they could have reached is that he should be recalled," Ndletyana said. "So the only question would be: When does he leave?"