USAfrica: Showdown in South Africa as ANC leaders ask Pres Zuma to step down

The top leadership of South Africa’s African National Congress is asking President Jacob Zuma to step down, just days before he is due to deliver the state of the nation address (SONA), which he insists on doing.
It is expected that he will agree to leave soon, but only after delivering SONA, which he believes he is constitutionally bound to.

Zuma’s insistence on delivering SONA could cause a constitutional crisis, as opposition parties have told National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete that they will approach a court to ask for an interdict stopping the opening of Parliament, the first such action in the country’s history.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule told City Press [on Saturday] that the party’s top six officials will go into the momentous meeting with Zuma [on Sunday] with “no conditions”, because there is no set agenda to remove him from office.

This is the first formal one with all six officials since the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) mandated them in January to “engage” with Zuma on the “transition”, a byword for his early exit.

Despite indications that Zuma refused to heed calls to step down until now, a close associate said this was only because he was waiting for a formal approach from the party’s leadership.

It’s understood that Zuma agreed to the meeting after a Magashule-led delegation visited him earlier [last] week.

The swift convening of the do-or-die meeting signals that interactions between Zuma and ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa to defuse tensions between Luthuli House and the Union Buildings have not made significant progress, hastening the call for Zuma’s downfall.

Magashule said that the top six were not going into the meeting with Zuma “with an attitude that says the president is going or not going. We are not going to go there with an attitude. There is no step aside or do not step aside,” he said.

However, his colleague in the top six, treasurer-general Paul Mashatile said in a television interview that there were tensions and that it would be ideal if Zuma were to step aside, to allow for one centre of power.

City Press has heard that a special sitting of the NEC will be convened if Zuma and the officials do not come to an agreement today.

But those close to Zuma say he may not need to be forced, because as a “deployee of the ANC”, the president is likely to accede to a request to step down, if he is asked officially to do so.

They said that up to now, nobody has officially asked him to resign. His children have, however, previously made the proposal, in light of widespread anti-Zuma sentiment and allegations of corruption.

“He is waiting for the ANC. I don’t think he will say no to the ANC. He is on record that if the ANC no longer wants him, he will resign. If he insists on staying, whose deployee will he be?” said a close Zuma ally.

The Zuma ally said despite the fact that business, opposition parties and the media had been talking about his exit, he would only listen to the ANC.

“Why must he listen to anybody other than the party that elected him into this position?”

The associate said Zuma felt strongly that it was his constitutional duty to deliver Sona. “Government systems demand that he does, otherwise government will collapse.

“He convenes SONA. We have not seen anything in the law that says he can delegate that responsibility to anyone else. He already gave notice to the speaker in October to convene this meeting. SONA and the budget must be presented, otherwise government will not be able to function. SONA must happen, even if it’s a Sona with disruptions,” said the associate.

Six opposition parties have written to Mbete, telling her to accede to the request for the postponement of SONA until the impeachment regulations are finalised.

This follows a meeting of leaders of the DA, United Democratic Movement (UDM), Congress of the People, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), African Christian Democratic Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party on Friday. They agreed to present a united front on the matter. ref: City Press