JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s ruling party is demanding its most prominent member, President Jacob Zuma, resign from office. But Zuma has yet to comply and is giving no indication that he will do so.
The situation took a new turn Tuesday when African National Congress Secretary-General Ace Magashule said the party's executive committee has officially decided to "recall" Zuma as president.
Zuma is now the second president to be recalled by the ANC, after Thabo Mbeki was recalled and swiftly resigned in 2008
Magashule said talks are ongoing, but the party expects the president to comply with the executive committee’s request and step aside.
“Is there still room for negotiation? Yes, we are a political party which wants to resolve matters politically. And if there is that space and President Jacob Zuma wants to further engage us, we’ll do so. But I think the decision of the national executive committee is now final: Recall President Jacob Zuma. So, that decision can’t change," Magashule told a news conference.
However, Zuma has no legal obligation to resign, and has now resisted more than a week’s worth of intense pressure from the party.
If he refuses to step down, the matter will go before parliament, which could remove him on a vote of no-confidence. If that happens, ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa would likely become South African president.
Corruption allegations hurt ANC
Zuma has been plagued by corruption allegations since he assumed the presidency in 2009. Among other allegations, critics say he used some $20 million in public funds for improvements at his private estate, and allowed a powerful Indian family to choose state ministers.
The accusations, coupled with a troubled economy, have made Zuma widely unpopular and weakened the ANC's once-firm grip on national politics.
Just outside ANC headquarters in downtown Johannesburg, some ordinary South Africans said Tuesday they want to see Zuma leave.
Voter Patience Ludithi, who is 45, said she had run out of patience with the president. She hails from a small town in the Free State Province, and says she blames Zuma for her town’s lack of development.
“I don’t want to see Jacob Zuma. I don’t like this man. We are suffering. Enough is enough," she said.
The nation’s opposition parties, which have seen unprecedented unity as the ruling party has split over Zuma’s fate and has lost votes in recent elections as a result, have said they will demand the dissolution of parliament and snap elections if Zuma is forced from office.
ANC expects Zuma response
Pressure has mounted on the the 75-year-old Zuma to step down since Ramaphosa took over as ANC head in December, defeating the president's ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamina-Zuma. The turmoil forced the cancellation of Zuma's annual State of the Nation address before a joint session of Parliament last week.
Magashule and ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa met with Zuma early Tuesday. Magashule said Zuma asked for three to six months to complete the job, but said the party felt that was too long, given his sinking approval ratings as critical elections approach next year.
Magashule said the party did not give Zuma a deadline to tender his resignation, but said they expected a quick turnaround.
“I am sure tomorrow the president will respond. Tomorrow. There’s no deadline. Tomorrow the president will respond," he said.
He did not say what steps the party leadership would take if Zuma refuses to step down, and has said the ruling party does not support the opposition’s planned vote of no-confidence in parliament this month.