South Africa's Zuma clings to power as party moves to oust him

Embattled South African President Jacob Zuma was clinging to power Tuesday after his ruling African National Congress...

Posted: Feb 13, 2018 3:03 PM
Updated: Feb 13, 2018 3:03 PM

Embattled South African President Jacob Zuma was clinging to power Tuesday after his ruling African National Congress party held a marathon meeting to decide his future.

The ANC's executive committee met in Pretoria for 13 hours on Monday in an attempt to end a standoff with Zuma, who has steadfastly resisted pressure to resign and survived a rash of no-confidence votes in recent years.

The ANC is expected to announce the outcome of the meeting at the party's Johannesburg headquarters at 2 p.m. on Tuesday (7 a.m. ET). One of the possible decisions could be to "recall" Zuma, which would pressure the 75-year-old President to resign before his term ends next year.

South Africa's opposition parties are insisting a no-confidence vote against Zuma scheduled for February 22 be brought forward to this week and have threatened to file charges with a High Court if the Parliament speaker does not allow it. They are also pushing for the dissolution of Parliament and early elections.

Hundreds of corruption allegations

Known as the "Teflon President," Zuma has survived repeated corruption allegations and scandals for years. In 2016, South Africa's top court ruled that Zuma had acted unconstitutionally when he used $15 million in public funds to upgrade his private home, and ordered him to repay some of the money.

He also faces more than 783 allegations of corruption relating to a 1990s arms deal. Zuma denies all the graft allegations against him.

Zuma has, nonetheless, withstood the scandals and opposition parties' repeated attempts to remove him. After refusing to resign when pressured by the ANC's top six leaders, he bought time by negotiating directly with Cyril Ramaphosa, his presumed successor and leader of the ANC.

Ramaphosa took over the party's leadership in December last year as pressure mounted on Zuma to step down.

During a speech in Cape Town on Sunday, Ramaphosa vowed the Monday meeting would "finalize" the matter.

"Comrades, the successful resolution of this matter has great significant consequences for the country and for the African National Congress," he said.

No amnesty for Zuma, opposition says

The official opposition leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, said Monday that his party rejected any kind of compromise deal that would allow Zuma to step aside peacefully and avoid prosecution.

"We reject any amnesty deal as an insult," he said, calling for the immediate removal of Zuma and his "cronies."

Maimane said that opposition parties agreed to mass rallies on February 22, the day of a scheduled parliamentary no-confidence vote over Zuma.

"South Africans must flood the streets," he said.

Zuma served as Deputy President to Thabo Mbeki for six years when he helped orchestrate a putsch against the President. At the end of 2007 he beat Mbeki to become the leader of the ANC and was elected South Africa's President in 2009. He was re-elected in 2014.

While scandal will be at the heart of Zuma's legacy, the President has had some political achievements. Before the global financial meltdown, Zuma presided over an ebullient economy and wildly successful soccer World Cup in 2010. He has been praised by many for reversing Mbeki's AIDS denialism and leading a massive rollout of life-saving antiretroviral drugs.

This story has been updated to correct the year that the Constitutional Court ordered Zuma to repay public funds over house improvements, and the amount he was ordered to pay.

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