Zuma: Critical, but stable

President Jacob Zuma pictured rubbing his eyes. (Leon Sadiki, Gallo)

President Jacob Zuma pictured rubbing his eyes. (Leon Sadiki, Gallo)

ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa is relaying the ANC’s NEC decision on the removal of Jacob Zuma as president of South Africa.

Shortly after 10.30pm on Monday night, Ramaphosa’s motorcade was seen leaving the St George’s Hotel in Irene, and was reportedly heading to Mahlamba Ndlopfu, the official residence of the president.

The rest of the NEC remained behind, apparently to await a report back from Ramaphosa on Zuma’s response to the NEC decision.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that Zuma had been given 48-hours to resign or face a recall.

Among those seemingly in the know is Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema who tweeted that “Ramapostponer” had been mandated to inform Zuma he could either resign or be recalled.

The movement came after more than eight hours of discussions around the fate of the president at the hotel where the NEC has gathered for a special sitting to decide on the transition of power from Zuma to Ramaphosa.

By mid-afternoon an SABC tweet claiming the NEC had decided to recall Zuma was widely shared. Further reports spread on social platforms suggesting the presidency was preparing a resignation speech for the president. The rand immediately strengthened on the news, climbing to below R11.90 to the dollar. The presidency however has since come out to denounce these reports as fake news. 

At one point during the journalists’ stakeout ANC Youth League president Collen Maine slowed to a stop, prompting a gaggle of journalists to scramble towards his car in the hope of gaining some insights into deliberations within the NEC. A smiling Maine rolled down his window, laughed and drove off with the unstated photographers, camera persons and reporters trailing in his wake.

What happens if the ANC makes a move against Zuma?

If the NEC votes for a recall, as expected, and Zuma tenders his resignation Ramaphosa, as deputy president of the country,  will assume power. It would then be up to the national assembly to pick a new president within 30 days.

A meeting of opposition parties earlier on Monday resulted in a call for the dissolution of parliament to be followed by fresh elections in three months. The EFF has also called for the motion of no confidence in Zuma to be brought forward from its original date of February 22. The red berets have threatened to take the speaker of the national assembly Baleka Mbete to court to force her to hold the vote earlier.

They have demanded an answer by 10am on Tuesday.

If Zuma refused to step down as head of state, the party could then call for a motion of no confidence to get rid of him. Again, the ANC is trying to avoid this as the considerable support that Zuma holds in the party, particularly emanating from the highly contested Kwazulu-Natal region, could punish the ruling party at the ballot box in 2019.

In 2008, nine months after Zuma was elected as president of the ANC, the ANC’s NEC voted to recall head of state Thabo Mbeki and shortened his term by eight months.

Then, because presidents derive their legitimacy from the largest party in parliament which elects them, the party ordered Mbeki to quit the presidency. 

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