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Zuma presidency in peril as ANC bosses quarrel over ousting him

While the South African leader has survived moves against him in the ANC before, that members of his cabinet proposed to oust him and that the discussion continues suggest his support may be waning

Jacob Zuma’s future as president of South Africa hangs in the balance as an increasing number of his governing party’s National Executive Committee members are backing calls for him to step down.

The move to oust Zuma has significant support in the African National Congress’s executive committee and it’s difficult to say whether he will survive as the nation’s president, said a senior official who’s in a meeting of the group and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The committee, the most powerful party body between national conferences held every five years, has the power to order Zuma to resign as president of the country, not as leader of the ANC.

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, who proposed the motion to the committee’s more than 80 voting members at a meeting on Saturday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi asked Zuma to resign, the Johannesburg-based news agency News24 reported, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the matter. The three cabinet members were supported by the ANC chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, News24 said.

While Zuma, 74, has survived moves against him in the ANC before, that members of his cabinet proposed the motion and that the discussion continues suggest his support may be waning.

Zuma is scheduled to step down as the ANC’s leader in December next year and his second term as president ends in 2019.

Markets’ factor

Calls for him to quit have multiplied as political mis-steps and a feud with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan over the tax collection agency roil markets.

Compounding his woes is a top court ruling that he violated his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer funds spent on upgrading his private home.

“It’s a big milestone that they have managed to have on the agenda the discussion on Jacob Zuma’s leadership,” said Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, a Johannesburg-based research group.

“What this does is to demonstrate to him is that his colleagues do not have confidence in him. He won’t take heed of that. He won’t voluntarily go.”

Senior ANC leaders unhappy with Zuma’s leadership who polled the committee’s voting members prior to the meeting found that 30 per cent were loyal to him, 34 per cent would vote against the president and the balance were undecided or non-committal, the Daily Maverick reported.

They then decided to press the issue, even though that could prompt Zuma to purge his opponents from his cabinet, according to the Johannesburg-based website. The debate forced the extension of the planned two-day meeting into Monday.

“Those who abuse power, abuse our trust shall soon be taught that you are not the boss of the people but their servant,” Tito Mboweni, a former governor of South Africa’s central bank and a member of the ANC’s executive committee, said in a Twitter posting. “Time to go.”

South Africa moved closer to a junk credit rating after Fitch Ratings Ltd on Friday changed the outlook on its assessment to negative from stable and said that continued political instability could result in a downgrade.

Governance concerns high

Political risks to the standards of governance and policymaking have increased and will remain high at least until the ANC leadership election in December next year, Fitch said in an emailed statement. Moody’s Investors Service left the country’s rating at two levels above non-investment grade.

Pressure on the president to resign has mounted since the graft ombudsman released a report on November 2 that implied Zuma may have let members of the Gupta family, who are his friends and in business with Zuma’s son, influence cabinet appointments, and called for a judicial inquiry commission to determine whether there had been any wrongdoing.

Zuma and the Guptas deny intentionally violating any laws.

“If Zuma survives his most serious internal revolt, he will face a party even more factionalised and discontent than ever before,” said Daniel Silke, director of the Political Futures Consultancy in Cape Town.

“The ANC National Executive Committee is no longer insulated or seemingly impenetrable to pressures from the ANC branches and formations in opposition to Zuma.”

— Washington Post

Sam Mkokeli is a political analyst and 
commentator

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