President Jacob Zuma has been given 48 hours by the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) to resign, failing which he will be forced out.
Late last night, after a marathon eight-hour meeting of the NEC to decide Zuma’s fate, the motorcades of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and secretary-general Ace Magashule left the St George’s Hotel venue in Irene, near Pretoria, ostensibly to convey the ultimatum to Zuma.
Ramaphosa had indicated yesterday’s meeting would decide on whether Zuma goes or stays as president of the country.
Indications from top officials had been that Zuma was on his way out, after he had set unacceptable conditions for leaving, rejected by the top six office-bearers.
It was earlier reported Zuma had wanted, among other things, three more months to wrap up matters.
Earlier the SABC reported Zuma had agreed to resign as head of state, citing sources, but the embattled leader’s spokesperson quickly dismissed this as “fake news”.
The rand, which had gained as much as 1% on expectations Zuma was on his way out, surrendered some of its gains after the rebuttal by the spokesperson, but remained 0.5% stronger on the day to the dollar.
Standing outside a meeting of the top leadership of the ANC, SABC correspondent Tshepo Ikaneng cited “authoritative sources” saying the 75-year-old Zuma had agreed to step down and formalities on how to tell the nation were being discussed.
The broadcaster also tweeted the report on its Twitter handle @SAfmnews. He provided no further details in his brief live broadcast – the first reports that Zuma might be throwing in the towel after repeated calls from his party to end his scandal-plagued second term a year early.
Zuma’s spokesperson, Bongani Ngqulunga, denied the report in a text message, describing it as “fake news”.
The meeting of the NEC in the Irene hotel had set the stage for a decisive showdown between Zuma stalwarts and those backing a swift transfer of power to new party leader Ramaphosa.
He said he had held direct talks with Zuma over a transfer of power, and said on Sunday the meeting of the party’s executive committee would be aiming for yesterday to “finalise” the situation.
The party executive has the authority to order Zuma to step down as head of state, although there is some domestic media speculation he might resist this.
Zuma survived calls last year from within the NEC for him to quit. But analysts say there is greater support for him to step down now.
Zuma’s tenure as president officially runs until the middle of next year and he has not said in public whether he would step down voluntarily.
Zuma is also facing a no-confidence motion in Parliament set for February 22, but has survived several similar attempts to oust him in the past.
His entire cabinet would have to step down if the motion of no confidence against him was successful.
Since becoming president in 2009, Zuma has been dogged by scandal. He is fighting the reinstatement of 783 counts of corruption over a R30 billion government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s when he was deputy president.