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November 17, 2018

Zuma must go: ANC recalls South African president

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma answers questions in parliament in Cape Town August 6, 2015. /REUTERS
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma answers questions in parliament in Cape Town August 6, 2015. /REUTERS

ANC has given South African President Jacob Zuma a new ultimatum to resign as head of state or risk being removed by Parliament.

"The ANC believe that this is an urgent matter that must be treated with urgency," the African National Congress secretary general Ace Magashule said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Magashule said the decision to recall Zuma was taken after exhaustive discussions.

"Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa must take over the presidency in line with our Constitution," he said.

The reported decision to "recall" him followed marathon talks by senior party officials that continued into the early hours of Tuesday.

If Zuma, 75, still does not budge, he will face a vote of confidence in parliament that he is expected to lose.

In power since 2009, he has been dogged by corruption allegations.

The ANC has not officially confirmed its plans but party sources have described them to South African media outlets and Reuters news agency.

Zuma has resisted increasing pressure to quit since December, when Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him as leader of the ANC.

Magashule delivered a letter to the embattled president at his official residence in the capital, Pretoria, officially informing him of the party's decision to "recall" him.

It is unclear how Zuma responded, and his office has not yet commented.

Earlier, Ramaphosa left the meeting of the ANC's NEC to travel to Zuma's residence, where he is said to have told the president he would be "recalled" if he did not step down. He later returned to the ANC conclave.

Read: Jacob Zuma: Time up for the South African cat with nine lives

What has Zuma done wrong?

Zuma's presidency has been overshadowed by allegations of corruption which he has always vehemently denied.

In 2016, South Africa's highest court ruled that Zuma had violated the constitution when he failed to repay government money spent on his private home.

Last year the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that he must face 18 counts of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money-laundering relating to a 1999 arms deal.

More recently, Zuma's links to the wealthy India-born Gupta family, who are alleged to have influenced the government, have caused his popularity to plummet.

Both Zuma and the Guptas deny the allegations.

How likely is Zuma to quit?

Correspondents say it will be very difficult for him to resist a formal request to resign but he would not be legally obliged to do so and could technically carry on as president despite losing the faith of his party.

However, he would then be expected to face a confidence vote in parliament. This has been scheduled for 22 February, but it could be held earlier.

Zuma has survived other such votes but he is not expected to pull it off again. A confidence vote would be considered a humiliating process for him and the party.

South African media are calling President Zuma's seemingly inevitable exit "Zexit".

His predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, resigned in 2008, also after a power struggle with his deputy.

The deputy in question was Jacob Zuma, who took over the presidency the following year.

Read: ANC decides to remove Zuma as SA president - source

Also read: SA president Jacob Zuma could quit within days

Why is this happening now?

The ANC was badly rattled by its performance at the 2016 local elections when it won its lowest share of the vote since coming to power under the late Nelson Mandela in 1994.

It wants to project a fresh image for next year's general election. Having served two terms in office (South African presidents are elected by parliament), Zuma cannot legally return to power in any case.

On Monday, opposition parties called for an early election.

"Anyone from the ANC that wants to lead this country, must get their mandate from the people of South Africa," Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane told reporters.

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