Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa Photo: AP/Brenton Geach)

The ANC executive committee has decided to "recall," or remove President Jacob Zuma as head of state, a senior ANC source told Reuters on Tuesday, after a marathon 13-hour meeting of the party's top leadership.

The party's executive committee has the authority to order Zuma to step down as head of state, although there is speculation that he might refuse.

ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, went to Zuma's official residence in Pretoria to pass the message that the NEC had given him 48 hours to resign as head of state.

"We decided to recall Zuma... Cyril went to speak with him," the senior ANC source said, adding that when Ramaphosa returned to the meeting, "the discussions were tense and difficult on whether to recall Zuma."

When Ramaphosa went to see Zuma, the president said, "Do what you want to do", when asked whether he would agree to resign or face a recall, Eye Witness News reported, citing sources

ANC officials and Zuma's spokesman could not be reached for comment.

"The biggest mistake we ever made in the ANC was to make Zuma president. He refused to resign now he is going to be recalled," an NEC source said via Whatsapp on Tuesday morning.

Zuma's tenure as president officially runs until mid-2019 and he has not said in public whether he will step down voluntarily. Zuma no longer holds a top position in the party.

Since Ramaphosa was elected party leader in December Zuma has faced mounting calls from his party to end his scandal-plagued second term scheduled to run out in mid-2019.

Zuma himself engineered the ousting of former president Thabo Mbeki in 2008 shortly after taking the helm of the ANC.

Mbeki was also "recalled" by the ANC, ending a nine-year rule marked by economic prosperity but marred by allegations of abuse of power.

Ramaphosa has put the focus on rooting out corruption and revitalising economic growth since defeating Zuma's preferred successor, Zuma's ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, in the ANC leadership race.

The former union leader has said he does not want to humiliate Zuma, but has been lobbying behind the scenes for him to step down early.