President Jacob Zuma. File photo

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's rand has firmed to 11.74 against the U.S. dollar late on Wednesday, the strongest its been since 2015 as the deadline for President Jacob Zuma to resign inched closer and closer. 

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) on Wednesday gave Zuma a deadline to resign or face a motion of no confidence in Parliament on Thursday.  

At lunchtime when the ANC parliamentary caucus was given the mandate to vote Zuma out if he does not resign, the rand quickly inched closer to recording its strongest, hitting 11.80 before stabilizing at 11.82. 

But it later retreated to 11.90 when Zuma appeared in a televised interview where he remained defiant and said calls for him to step down were unfair.

The last time the rand breached 11.7975 was two and half years ago. It is widely believed that Zuma's resignation, which is only a matter of time now, will instill confidence in the markets and strengthen the local currency. 

The local currency had fallen to 11.99 early on Tuesday as markets awaited the outcome of an ANC meeting on Zuma's fate, before climbing to around 11.88 later in the day after the party said it was recalling him.   

Zuma, dogged by allegations of corruption since coming to power in 2009, is under pressure to step down ahead of 2019 national elections which will likely see his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, a former businessman preferred by investors, become the country's new president.

The rand, which has strengthened significantly since the ANC elected Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma as party leader in December, has traded nervously in recent weeks as Zuma resisted calls to reliquish his post, insisting he has done no wrong. 

African News Agency/ANA