President Jacob Zuma leaves Tuynhuys, the office of the Presidency at Parliament, after the announcement that his 2018 State of the Nation Address had been postponed. Picture Cindy Waxa/ANA
Johannesburg - Ahead of what was expected to be a fraught battle, President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday night seems to have thrown in the towel.

An ANC special NEC meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed.

ANC spokesperson Khusela Diko confirmed that the NEC meeting which was scheduled for the Mount Nelson Hotel has been postponed to February 17.

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

Read more: ANC postpones meeting of its NEC to decide Zuma's fate

Ahead of the meeting Zuma’s supporters were gearing up to wage one last battle to save his political life after the embattled leader suffered another setback on Tuesday.

Zuma’s detractors were planning to force the NEC to take a firm decision that he should leave the country’s highest office.

Independent Media established from several NEC members opposed to Zuma that if it comes to a push they would have voted to force a clear decision for Zuma to step down.

The president’s detractors were angered by his refusal to quit at the meeting he had with the ANC Top Six leaders on Sunday night.

The ANC caucus in Parliament will also meet on Thursday to discuss the postponement of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and its implications.

All the parties on Tuesday backed the decision by Speaker Baleka Mbete to postpone the SONA.

Mbete announced the postponement of the SONA, which was scheduled for Thursday, until further notice, citing the current national political environment.

Despite the postponement, the opposition parties demanded that a motion of no-confidence in Zuma be called before the SONA can take place, if the ANC did not remove him.

A source in the NEC said the “sands have shifted” and the Zuma group will not succeed.

He said Cyril Ramaphosa had the upper hand, and more people in the NEC would favour the removal of Zuma.

Also read: Presidency slams Ramaphosa axing rumours as 'outrageous'

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the caucus would discuss the way forward and take a decision.

“(But) the caucus has not discussed the matter,” he added.

Zuma’s detractors are planning to force the NEC to take a firm decision that he should leave the country’s highest office.

It has established from several NEC members who are opposed to Zuma that if it comes to the push, there would be a vote to force a clear decision for him to step down.

The president’s detractors were angered by his refusal to quit at the meeting he had with the ANC Top Six leaders on Sunday night.

They are now going for the kill, emboldened by the postponement of the SONA, which Zuma and his supporters - including ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule - were adamant that he would deliver the SONA on Thursday.

But Zuma is not going down without a fight.

Ramaphosa has previously called for Zuma not to be humiliated, even if he was ousted.

A senior ANC member said several ministers had changed their allegiance from Zuma to Ramaphosa, mindful of the future.

“He (Zuma) is daring the ANC and wants to take it to the streets, but there is a sea-change among the people who used to support him,” said the ANC member.

NEC member Njabulo Nzuza said they would argue against Zuma’s removal, saying it was a purge of those who did not vote for Ramaphosa at the governing party’s elective conference in December.

“We are obviously going to argue against the removal of the president, because we don’t believe that this helps unity in the ANC.

“Even the reason put forward shows that people are vindictive about last year’s conference,” he added.

“We are talking about managing a transition, but we are picking up that people who were victorious at the conference are using the ousting of Zuma to fight back against the people who have different views from theirs.

“It is dangerous in the ANC that every time there is a conference, people see themselves as the

winners instead of the ANC,” he added.

Nzuza said they would tell the NEC meeting that the party should manage the transition instead of ousting Zuma.

“Officials were never sent to tell Zuma to step down, but they were sent to talk to him about managing the transition. Instead of talking about the transition, the officials went to tell Zuma to leave. The issue of Zuma was discussed in two previous NEC meetings, and in both meetings, attempts to pass a resolution failed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the SACP on Tuesday night accused Zuma of tribalism and ethnic mobilisation to stay in power.

The party also claimed that there was information that the president was planning to fire Ramaphosa any time from late Tuesday and replace him with Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Zuma’s spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga dismissed the SACP’s allegations of ethnic mobilisation and Ramaphosa’s firing as “baseless, preposterous and ouourageous”.

Political Bureau