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All eyes now on Zuma

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The NEC had given Zuma until today to resign or face removal through a motion of no confidence in Parliament

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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’s 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 yesterday that he expected Zuma to comply with the decision.

“There is no deadline. I know the president will respond tomorrow (today). I am sure he will call you, as the media,” Magashule told a packed media briefing yesterday.

While Magashule said that the National Executive Committee (NEC) has not set any deadlines for Zuma, it is understood that the NEC had given Zuma 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 to decide when he would leave as he was “unreliable”.

“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,” Msimang said.

An ANC leader said that some cabinet members had threatened to resign en masse to try and force Zuma’s hand should he not heed the NEC’s directive.

Zuma had wanted to be given at least three more months in office, but this was rejected by the NEC, which felt that 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 nuclear deal with Russia, a claim that was rejected by Magashule, who said that the suggestion was disrespectful to Zuma.

“In our earlier discussions there was an understanding that it will be good for President Zuma to introduce Comrade Ramaphosa to Brics leadership and SADEC. Earlier on, we were happy with those timelines, 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 Zuma from office, he will only step down if he either resigns or if he gets removed through a parliamentary process which may involve either a motion of no confidence or impeachment.

A motion of no confidence can be passed through a simple majority while impeachment requires a two-thirds majority.

Another ANC leader said that 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 impasse over Zuma’s resignation.

Responding to whether the ANC will 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 – you cannot be a party member and vote with your conscience.”

Political analyst Bheki Mngomezulu said that 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 that the opposition would be able to garner enough support.

“The ANC also has a gentleman’s agreement to not service a motion that serves the opposition,” he said.

The ANC will now use the next few days to contain any fallout that may arise from the decision as it tries to avoid a costly split that may arise.

The ANC leadership will descend on various parts of the country at the weekend to take its decision to various structures

Provinces like KwaZulu-Natal, where Zuma has the strongest support base, will be prioritised, an ANC leader said.

However, President Zuma’s supporters dismissed any talk of a splinter party.