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Jacob Zuma may step down as South African president ‘within days’

Jacob Zuma, the South Africa president facing corruption charges negotiates terms of exit with ANC boss Cyril Ramaphosa.

Jacob Zuma may step down as South African president 'within days'

Jacob Zuma leaves Tuynhuys, the office of the presidency, at parliament in Cape Town on Wednesday. Photo: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, is expected to leave office within days, parliamentarians from the ruling African National Congress party have said.

Zuma, who is facing multiple charges of corruption, has been negotiating the terms of his departure with Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC leader.

Ramaphosa pulled out of public events to focus on “pressing matters” on Friday, fuelling speculation that he was making a final push to convince Zuma, 75, to step down as South Africa’s head of state before a major ANC rally on Sunday.

The party, in power since the end of the repressive, racist apartheid regime in 1994, has been thrown into crisis by an increasingly chaotic transfer of power from the incumbent president to his deputy and rival.

“The ANC have been pushed into the corner and so have to act and take a decisive decision,” the political analyst Ralph Mathekga said. “I think they might be announcing something over the weekend.”

Ramaphosa told parliamentarians on Thursday he hoped to conclude talks with the president over a transition of power “in coming days … in the interests of the country.”

An MPtold the Guardianon condition of anonymity: “He said [the negotiations] would not drag on and that we should basically expect news any moment. No one wants this to go into next week and go on and on.”

The annual state of the nation address to parliament on Thursday, which Zuma was scheduled to give, has been postponed until further notice.

A second MP said Ramaphosa had indicated the negotiations were about “small practical things, not a big argument”.

It is still possible that Zuma will be ordered to resign by the ANC, though this may raise significant constitutional issues. According to ANC rules, all members, even elected officials, fulfil their functions according to the will of the party.

It would also anger the powerful faction within the ANC that is still loyal to the president.

Analysts say Ramaphosa, who won a bitterly fought internal election to become president of the ANC in December, has the support of only just over half the members of its top decision-making body.

Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, an ex-wife of Zuma, posted a picture of herself with the president on Friday captioned: “It’s going to get rough … don’t fight with someone who is not fighting you”.

“Zuma did not join the ANC in 1991, jumped ship or hip-hopped between the struggle and wealth accumulation”, she wrote, in a comment directed at Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader and anti-apartheid activist turned multimillionaire businessman.

The more likely scenario is a deal allowing Zuma to leave office “voluntarily”.

Ramaphosa has said he wanted the president to have a “dignified” exit and told the MPs that he has ruled out any formal amnesty or impunity. Unless he is successfully impeached, Zuma will keep his salary and many of the perks of office, including healthcare, security and significant benefits for members of his family.

The Democratic Alliance, an opposition party, said: “it is incomprehensible that immunity would even be considered given the devastating impact Zuma’s presidency has had on the country. It also shows that the ANC under Ramaphosa is the very same ANC it was under Zuma,” a statement from the party read.

Zuma’s premature departure – his second five-year term is due to expire in 2019 – would consolidate the power of Ramaphosa, who has been Zuma’s deputy since 2014. Ramaphosa would become president, in accordance with the constitution.

Supporters of Ramaphosa, who is seen as the standard bearer of the party’s reformist wing, say it is essential that Zuma is sidelined as early as possible to allow the ANC to regroup before campaigning starts in earnest for elections in 2019.

Zuma had led the ANC since 2007 and has been South Africa’s president since 2009. His tenure in both posts has been marred by a series of corruption scandals that have undermined the image and legitimacy of the party that led South Africans to freedom in 1994.

SOURCE: The Guardian, UK and reliable sources


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