South African President Jacob Zuma will face a fresh bid to force him from office when the ruling African National Congress’s top leadership meets this week for the first time since he relinquished control of the party to his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa.
A proposal to order Zuma to step down before his term ends in 2019 will be discussed at a Wednesday meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee in the southern city of East London, according to three members of the panel who spoke on condition of anonymity. Zuma’s scandal-tainted tenure has eroded support for the ANC.
The NEC’s 86 voting members are divided into two loose factions — one that backed Ramaphosa, 65, to take over as party leader at the ANC’s national conference last month and another that’s allied to Zuma and favored his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him.
Ramaphosa won the contest with just 52 percent of the vote, giving him a tenuous hold over the party, and it remains unclear where exactly the balance of power lies within the panel, which usually takes decisions by consensus.
“Given Cyril Ramaphosa’s emphasis on renewing the ANC, doing things afresh, it makes all the sense that the matter should be a priority agenda issue,” Mcebisi Ndletyana, a political science professor at the University of Johannesburg, said by phone.
“If it is raised and the motion is defeated, then that is a serious worry. It would be indicative that he does not have everyone behind him. It would make him a very weak president.”
The ANC’s former head of intelligence, Zuma, 75, took office in May 2009 just weeks after prosecutors dropped graft charges against him. He’s spent years fighting a bid by opposition parties to have those charges reinstated and fending off allegations that he allowed members of the Gupta family to influence cabinet appointments and the award of state contracts.
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