South African President Jacob Zuma’s future hung in the balance as the top decision-making body of the ruling African National Congress began debating a proposal to recommend his removal from office, according to five people who are members of the party’s national executive committee.
The debate took place in the ANC committee late Saturday in Pretoria, after weeks of mounting pressure on Zuma following his March 31 decision to remove Pravin Gordhan as finance minister in a cabinet purge. That move swelled the ranks of his opponents and prompted S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Ltd. to downgrade the nation’s sovereign credit rating to junk.
The committee of about 100 members is scheduled to resume its debate today on whether to vote to oust Zuma, according to the five members who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Divisions in the party have widened since the ANC suffered its worst-ever electoral result when it lost control of Johannesburg, the economic hub, Pretoria, the capital, in a municipal vote in August. Three of its top six officials criticized Zuma’s decision to fire Gordhan, while Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who’s a rival to Zuma’s ex-wife to succeed him as party leader in December, said on May 21 that South Africa is threatened with becoming a “mafia state.”
While only parliament can legally force the president from office, the NEC could instruct Zuma, 75, to resign, as it did Thabo Mbeki in 2008, or tell its lawmakers who occupy 62 percent of the seats in the national legislature, to remove him. Zuma has said he’ll quit if the party orders him to.
The committee decided against a similar motion against Zuma in November. ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa didn’t answer calls seeking comment.