ANC NEC members called for President Jacob Zuma's resignation, which may mean he does not deliver his penultimate State of the Nation Address.
President Jacob Zuma's future hangs in the balance after ANC national executive committee members called for his resignation, which may mean he does not deliver his penultimate State of the Nation (SONA) address next month.

Zuma, who is in the last 18 months of his second term as head of state, attended the governing party's NEC lekgotla in Centurion, Tshwane.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said yesterday the party's top six would continue engaging with him to ensure effective co-ordination between Luthuli House and the government.

Last week, Independent Media reported that the top six had resolved that Zuma will meet his party boss, ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa, every Tuesday. It emerged yesterday that a two-day NEC this week tasked the top six officials with asking Zuma to resign.

A source said engagements were still being held to discuss Zuma's exit before February when he is due to deliver his second last SONA.

The source said no final decision on the matter was taken, but Ramaphosa held a meeting with the alliance partners, Cosatu, the SACP and Sanco, to brief them.

“The briefing was to just to bring the alliance on board on the developments, including the Eskom matter, the intricacies of which threaten the sovereignty of the country,” the source said.

Another source said there has also been talk in ANC circles about the SONA and Budget speech being moved a few weeks back if Zuma did not immediately budge. The Budget speech would have to be tabled in Parliament by the end of February at the latest, as the end of March is the government's end of financial year.

But one of Zuma’s fiercest defenders, uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans' Association president Kebby Maphatsoe, yesterday denied that the NEC lekgotla discussed the president's resignation or recall.

Maphatsoe, who attended the lekgotla in his capacity as deputy minister of military veterans, said the gathering was discussing policies and that it would break into commissions for further deliberations.

Ramaphosa is scheduled to close the lekgotla, which maps out the ANC-led government's programme for the year, today.

Maphatsoe did not make it back to the NEC during last month's ANC elective conference.

SACP first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said the organisation was happy that the new NEC had the guts to discuss Zuma's removal without falling into the trap of thinking doing so would divide the ANC. He said it was extremely important that unity of the ANC should be that of common purpose. ”The SACP is of the view that President Zuma should be removed as soon as possible,” said Mapaila.

He said that each day Zuma remained in office made it harder for the ANC to regain the trust of South Africans and reconnect with voters. ”We call on the ANC top six to speed up the process. It’s fine if they want him to leave in a dignified manner,” he said.

ANC ally Cosatu threatened to put pressure on the NEC to axe Zuma and intensify its campaign should he not be recalled or resign. Cosatu deputy general secretary Solly Phetoe told Independent Media that the federation's position was still the same. ”We are not putting pressure on Zuma but on the NEC. Zuma must step down, we have never withdrawn that demand,” he said.

Phetoe said Ramaphosa must replace Zuma at the Union Buildings. ”We cannot have two centres of power,” he said.

Should Zuma still be in office when Cosatu holds its central executive committee meeting next month the federation will intensify its calls for his removal, he added.

Political analyst Dr. Somadoda Fikeni said Zuma was under extreme pressure to step down but warned that the matter could drag on. He said Zuma may make demands and if they are not acceded to may resist. ”If he is assured he is not going to be humiliated he may consider leaving.”

According to Fikeni, Zuma faces many legal challenges that impact on his key allies including possible impeachment which could lead to him losing all of his post-presidency benefits, such as his salary for life.

Sunday Independent