President Jacob Zuma Picture: Nic Bothma/ EPA

Parliament - The much anticipated meeting of the African National Congress' national executive committee to decide the fate of embattled President Jacob Zuma has now been postponed to next week.

The ANC on Tuesday night announced that its NEC meeting had been pushed out to the weekend of February 17-18, just days before the scheduled Budget Speech in Parliament. 

“The postponement came at the advice of ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa after his engagement with President Jacob Zuma,” said ANC spokesperson Khusela Diko.

A message sent to NEC members reads: "By the directive of the ANC President Cde Cyril Ramaphosa, we hereby inform you that after fruitful and constructive discussions between the ANC President and President of the Republic held this evening, president of the ANC, Cde Cyril Ramaphosa has postponed the Special NEC meeting to sit on the 17&18 Feb 2018."

The ANC NEC had been set to meet in Cape Town on Wednesday on the eve of the State of the Nation (SONA) address in Parliament, but on a momentous day in South African politics, Parliament announced that Thursday's SONA had been postponed. 

Earlier Tuesday, ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, who was introducing the new ANC spokesman Pule Mabe, told reporters in Johannesburg that a binding collective decision would be made by the NEC on the fate of Zuma at the meeting on Wednesday.

Read more: #ANCNEC meeting to discuss matter of serious concern, says Duarte

Zuma has thus far resisted calls by his own party to step down as head of state, opening the way for a no-confidence vote or possible impeachment, while a decision on reinstating hundreds of decade-old corruption and racketeering charges is pending.

The announcement by Speaker Baleka Mbete of the postponement of SONA comes amid rising calls for Zuma to step down and to not deliver SONA, both from within his own party and the opposition, who have in recent years disrupted the state of the nation in protest at Zuma's presence amid myriad scandals of corruption and state capture.

Standing on the steps outside the National Assembly, Mbete said: "We have been dismayed in the past four years at the disruption, anarchy and chaos that have been characteristic of this annual Joint Sitting which, in some way, marks the opening of Parliament.

"Reporting through Parliament on the State of the Nation is a critical accountability action by the Executive and it must happen. Developments this year, particularly the calls for disruption and/or postponement of the Joint Sitting, have, therefore, caused us great concern.

"We have, regrettably, come to the conclusion that there is little likelihood of an uneventful Joint Sitting of Parliament this coming Thursday."

Also read: 'Postponing #SONA2018 in best interests of Parliament, SA'

Mbete said that with these concerns in mind, Parliament had decided to approach Zuma to propose the postponement "in order to create room for establishing a much more conducive political atmosphere in Parliament". 

"When we met the President, we then learnt that he was already writing to Parliament to ask for the postponement of SONA."

Mbete said a new date for SONA would be announced soon.

ANA and Political Bureau