South Africans awoke to find their nation in limbo after President Jacob Zuma’s refusal to obey his ruling African National Congress’s request to resign voluntarily prompted its top leadership to order his removal from office.
The ANC’s National Executive Committee decided to “recall” Zuma, 75, during a 13-hour meeting that ended early Tuesday, according to five people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the decision hasn’t been made public.
It marked the failure of efforts to convince Zuma to agree to an amicable transfer of power from his scandal-ridden administration to one headed by party leader Cyril Ramaphosa.
Unless Zuma decides to resign soon, the ANC will have to order its lawmakers in parliament to approve a motion of no confidence in the president.
The political impasse already forced the unprecedented postponement of last week’s scheduled annual state-of-the-nation address and may imperil the presentation of the budget on Feb. 21.
The ANC is holding a press conference at 2 p.m. to explain its next move. Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone.
“There is nothing good about a leadership limbo in any country,” said Daniel Silke, the director of Political Futures Consultancy in Cape Town.
“This extreme political uncertainty is the last thing South Africa needs as it tries to claw back some credibility in the minds of investors and the global community.”
The ANC wants Ramaphosa, a 65-year-old former labor union leader and businessman, to take over as soon as possible before elections next year so he has time to show he can meet his pledges to rebuild a battered economy — the most industrialized in Africa — and clamp down on the graft that critics say marred the Zuma era.
The rand has gained the most against the dollar of the 16 major currencies since his Dec. 18 election as ANC leader.
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