Africa 6.2.2018 09:30 pm

S.Africa’s Zuma holds talks with likely successor as exit looms

S.Africa’s Zuma holds talks with likely successor as exit looms

Scandal-tainted South African President Jacob Zuma, who is under growing pressure to resign, held “fruitful” talks on Tuesday with his likely successor Cyril Ramaphosa, the ruling ANC party said.

The ANC said that the talks meant that a special party meeting scheduled for Wednesday that could have forced Zuma out of office had been postponed to next week, but it gave no details about any possible resignation deal.

The African National Congress, which has ruled since Nelson Mandela won the post-apartheid 1994 election, has been plunged into chaos over the transition of power from Zuma to his deputy Ramaphosa.

As president, Zuma had been due to deliver the State of the Nation address to parliament in Cape Town on Thursday — a closely-watched event that shapes the political agenda for the coming year.

But, in an unprecedented move, the speech was also postponed on Tuesday, heightening speculation that Zuma could finally yield to calls to step down.

Many ANC members are pushing for Cyril Ramaphosa, the new head of the party, to replace Zuma, 75, as president immediately.

But Zuma loyalists have said that the serving president should complete his second and final term in office, which would end when elections are held next year.

“After fruitful and constructive discussions… Cyril Ramaphosa has postponed the special NEC (national executive committee) meeting,” the ANC said in a statement.

– Power struggle –

Parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete told reporters that the State of the Nation address — a grand political event — would be re-scheduled because there was “little likelihood” that it would be held without disruption.

In previous years, opposition lawmakers have shouted Zuma down and been ejected from the chamber by security guards in a melee of flying fists.

“We thought that we needed to create room for establishing a much more conducive political atmosphere in parliament,” Mbete added, saying a new date would be announced shortly.

Zuma said he had made the unprecedented request for the delay “due to certain developments” but gave no further details.

Deputy president Ramaphosa would automatically take office if Zuma resigns.

“Ramaphosa will look weak if he can’t get Zuma out now. He won’t be able to back down now without losing face,” Ben Payton, analyst for the London-based Maplecroft consultancy, told AFP.

The power struggle has rocked the ANC, the storied liberation party which led the fight against white-minority rule but has since lost much of its public support.

Despite the attacks on him, Zuma still enjoys some backing within the party, particularly among rural members and within his own Zulu community.

– Zuma’s troubled reign –

His presidency has been dominated by an economic slowdown, record unemployment and allegations of corruption.

He faces several court cases, including action relating to 783 payments he received allegedly linked to an arms deal before he came to power in 2009.

Many graft allegations against him have centred on the wealthy Gupta family, who are accused of unfairly obtaining lucrative government contracts and even being able to choose ministerial appointments.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, which promotes the legacy of South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon, has called for Zuma to go as he had “demonstrated that he is not fit to govern”.

In a damning statement, it said there was “overwhelming evidence that systematic looting by patronage networks linked to President Zuma have betrayed the country Nelson Mandela dreamed of.”

Ramaphosa, 65, is a former trade unionist who led talks to end apartheid rule in the early 1990s and then became a multi-millionaire businessman before returning to politics.

 

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