With very few options left and one foot already out of the Union Buildings, President Jacob Zuma is today expected to finally step down from office following the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) decision to recall him.
While Zuma has, over the past few weeks, defied the party by refusing to resign despite numerous engagements with party leaders, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said he expected Zuma to comply with the decision.
“There is no deadline. I know the president will respond tomorrow. I am sure he will call you as the media,” Magashule told a packed media briefing yesterday.
While Magashule said the NEC had not set any deadlines for Zuma, it is understood that the committee gave him until today to resign or face removal through a motion of no confidence in Parliament.
Some leaders of the party accused Magashule of not communicating the true feelings and sentiments of the NEC.
ANC veteran Mavuso Msimang described the briefing as confusing. He said it was not wise to leave the ball in Zuma’s court.
“It is all hanging in the air right now. Zuma can either resign tomorrow or whenever or he can come back with his own response,” he said.
An ANC leader said some cabinet members had also threatened to resign en masse to try to force Zuma’s hand should he not heed the NEC’s directive.
Yesterday ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe warned Zuma that if he continued to refuse to obey, the ANC would have no option but to allow a motion of no confidence in him to take place. "A disciplined cadre, you are given a chance to resign on your own, but if you lack discipline you will resist. Once you resist we are going to let you be thrown out through the vote of no confidence because you disrespect the organisation and you disobey it, therefore we are going to let you be devoured by the vultures," he said, speaking in Butterworth in the Eastern Cape.
Zuma wanted to be given at least three more months in office but this was rejected by the NEC, which felt allowing the scandal-prone president more time in office was going to do more harm to the party and the country.
The request for a three-month stay raised eyebrows and led to speculation that Zuma wanted to use this time to conclude the multibillion-rand deal with Russia, a claim that was rejected by Magashule.
“In our earlier discussions there was an understanding that it will be good for president Zuma to introduce Comrade Ramaphosa to Brics leadership and SADC (Southern African Development Community). Earlier on we were happy with those time lines but the NEC had a different view,” Magashule said.
ANC leaders will today communicate the decision to the party’s parliamentary caucus in what is seen as a preparation for the eventuality that Zuma may refuse to resign. Constitutionally, while the party has taken a decision to remove him from office, he will only step down if he either resigns or if he gets removed through a process which may involve a motion of no confidence or impeachment.
A motion of no confidence can be passed through a simple majority while impeachment required a two-thirds majority.
Another ANC leader said the party would definitely explore the motion of no confidence as a last resort. “We cannot have renewal with Zuma still being president of the country, he needs to leave so that Ramaphosa comes in.”
The EFF had already called for a motion of no confidence in Zuma to be debated in Parliament next week.
This week the party tried to bring the date forward to take advantage of the Zuma impasse.
Responding on whether the ANC would support an opposition sponsored motion of no confidence, Magashule said: “I don’t know whether we will support the motion of no confidence.
“There will always be party lines,” he said.
Political analyst Bheki Mngomezulu said he doubted the ANC would sponsor a motion of no confidence should Zuma refuse to resign.
He added that although there may be some ANC MPs willing to vote against Zuma during the EFF-sponsored motion of no confidence, he doubted the opposition would get enough support.
“The ANC also has a gentlemen’s agreement to not service a motion that serves the opposition,” he said.
The ANC would use the next few days to contain any fallout that may arise from the decision. The leadership would go to various parts of the country at the weekend to explain its decision to various structures.
KwaZulu-Natal would be a priority, an ANC leader said. Zuma’s supporters dismissed any talk of a splinter party.