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ANC orders Zuma to step down

•President responds to recall today

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party yesterday recalled scandal-tainted President Jacob Zuma but set no deadline for him to step down, pitching the country into further uncertainty.

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule told reporters that Zuma had “agreed in principle to resign” and had proposed leaving in three to six months, a delay that the party rejected.

Magashule said there was no date for Zuma to stand down, and added that there would be “continuing interaction” between ANC officials and Zuma.

“The NEC (National Executive Committee) decided… to recall its deployee Jacob Zuma,” Magashule told reporters, saying the move “was taken only after exhaustive discussion on the impact such a recall would have on the country”.

The ANC party can “recall” the head of state, but the process is a party-level instruction and Zuma is under no constitutional obligation to obey. But Magashule said Zuma has promised to respond to the recall today. There was no word from Zuma or his spokesperson. He could be ousted in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence if he clings to office.

But the party’s national executive was split on precisely when Zuma should go, Magashule added, leaving the president’s immediate fate still hanging in the balance. Magashule said he had met Zuma personally to pass on the decision. “We haven’t given him any deadline to respond,” he said. “The organization expects him to go.” 

Zuma had asked the party to give him a notice period of three to six months but that had been rejected, Magashule said. “Timelines? No. The NEC believes that this is an urgent matter so it should be treated with urgency,” he said.

Magashule said he had met Zuma personally to pass on the decision. “We haven’t given him any deadline to respond,” he said. “The organization expects him to go.”  Zuma had asked the party to give him a notice period of three to six months but that had been rejected, Magashule said. “Timelines? No. The NEC believes that this is an urgent matter so it should be treated with urgency,” he said.  Zuma has been living on borrowed time since Ramaphosa, a union leader and lawyer once tipped as Mandela’s pick to take over the reins, was elected as head of the 106-year-old ANC in December.

Ramaphosa narrowly defeated Zuma’s ex-wife and preferred successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in the leadership vote, forcing him to tread carefully in handling Zuma for fear of deepening rifts in the party a year ahead of an election.

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