Day of Reckoning for South Africa’s Zuma as ANC Top Brass Meets

JOHANNESBURG (Capital Markets in Africa) – Time appears to be running out for South African President Jacob Zuma. Six weeks after his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, replaced him as leader of the ruling African National Congress, the party’s top brass is due to meet in Cape Town on Wednesday to decide whether to force him from office. The crunch meeting of the National Executive Committee comes a day before Zuma was due to deliver the annual state-of-the-nation speech before parliament, in an unprecedented move, announced on Tuesday its postponement.

 “Zuma will be completely isolated after the NEC decision,” said Dirk Kotze, a political science professor at the University of South Africa in Pretoria. “He lost his political power in December. If the ANC says: We withdraw our political support for you, then he is a lame duck. He cannot continue.”

Parliament has decided to ask Zuma to delay the state-of-the-nation address due to fears of violence, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete told reporters outside Parliament Cape Town. The speech won’t be postponed for more than a week, National Council of Provinces ChairwomanThandi Modise said.

Transition Mishandled

Zuma’s defiance of calls to resign has stolen some of the shine from the optimism generated by the victory of Ramaphosa, who’s cheered by many investors for his pledges to bolster growth, clamp down on graft and provide greater policy certainty. The rand has been the best performer in the world against the dollar since his Dec. 18 election as ANC leader, and was 0.6 percent stronger at 12.0513 per dollar at 3 p.m. in Johannesburg.

The ANC’s mishandling of the transition to a new leadership has damaged both the country and the party, according to Gary van Staden, an analyst at NKC African Economics in Paarl, outside Cape Town.

“There was no plan to deal with the inevitable fallout and uncertainty that now threatens to add chaos and violence to the mixture,” Van Staden said by email. “We have floundered into an absurd position in which almost whatever happens will be damaging one way or another. The new ANC leadership that promised so much faltered at the first hurdle.”

The ANC’s former head of intelligence, Zuma took power in May 2009 and clung to office through a series of scandals with the aid of his allies who controlled most key positions in the party and government.

Waning Fortunes

Since Ramaphosa beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s favored successor and ex-wife, in the December vote for the party leadership, the president’s fortunes have waned. On Wednesday, he faces the prospect of an order by the NEC to resign, and if he refuses, a possible vote by parliament to strip him of his office. The legislature is due to debate a motion of no-confidence proposed by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party on Feb. 22.

The NEC needs time to deliberate and no firm decision has been taken on Zuma’s future, Jessie Duarte, the ANC’s deputy secretary-general, told reporters in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

“We are not going to discuss the outcome with you because we don’t know what the outcome will be,’’ she said. “Let’s wait for the NEC.”

While Zuma has survived repeated attempts by the opposition in parliament to remove him from office and two previous votes in the NEC, these would be the first with Zuma not being the head of the ANC. His supporters still make up a significant portion of the executive committee, and Zuma may be relying on them to again defeat a proposal that he step down.

Source: Bloomberg Business News


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