South African President Jacob Zuma will face a fresh bid to force him from office when the ruling African National Congress’s top leadership meets this week for the first time since he relinquished control of the party to his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa.
A proposal to order Zuma to step down before his term ends in 2019 will be discussed at a Wednesday meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee in the southern city of East London, according to three members of the panel who spoke on condition of anonymity. Zuma’s scandal-tainted tenure has eroded support for the ANC.
The NEC’s 86 voting members are divided into two loose factions – one that backed Ramaphosa, 65, to take over as party leader at the ANC’s national conference last month and another that’s allied to Zuma and favored his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him. Ramaphosa won the contest with just 52% of the vote, giving him a tenuous hold over the party, and it remains unclear where exactly the balance of power lies within the panel, which usually takes decisions by consensus.
“Given Cyril Ramaphosa’s emphasis on renewing the ANC, doing things afresh, it makes all the sense that the matter should be a priority agenda issue,” Mcebisi Ndletyana, a political science professor at the University of Johannesburg, said by phone. “If it is raised and the motion is defeated, then that is a serious worry. It would be indicative that he does not have everyone behind him. It would make him a very weak president.”
The ANC’s former head of intelligence, Zuma, 75, took office in May 2009 just weeks after prosecutors dropped graft charges against him. He’s spent years fighting a bid by opposition parties to have those charges reinstated and fending off allegations that he allowed members of the Gupta family to influence cabinet appointments and the award of state contracts.
Euphoria following Ramaphosa’s election as ANC leader helped boost the rand 11% last month, the most among the world’s major currencies. The rand declined 0.9% to 12.4318 per dollar at 4:06 p.m. on Monday, as analysts at Rabobank and JPMorgan Chase & Co. said the currency has rallied too far.
Ramaphosa said the ANC, which marked the 106th anniversary of its founding on Monday, needed to lead by example and that its leaders needed to serve with humility, modesty and commitment.
“We will adopt a value system to root out corruption within our ranks,” he said at a wreath-laying ceremony at Inanda in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province. “Corruption undermines the interest of our people as a whole.”
While unsuccessful bids to oust Zuma were made at NEC meetings in November 2016 and March last year, a number of its members have changed since the elective conference in December. His second and final term is due to end around mid-2019.
ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the NEC meeting agenda had yet to be determined, but the issue of Zuma’s early departure could be raised. “There are no no-go areas in that meeting,” Kodwa said by phone.
Darias Jonker, an Africa analyst at risk-advisory firm Eurasia Group, expects Zuma’s ouster to be delayed until the second quarter of the year even though his continued presence in office may hamper the ANC as it gears up to contest elections in 2019.
“Ramaphosa must still tolerate Zuma allies in the NEC and minimize tensions within the party by not appearing to have a personal agenda against Zuma,” Jonker said. “Zuma loyalists, such as newly elected Secretary-General Ace Magashule, remain in key party positions.”