The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the African National Congress (ANC) has given South African President Jacob Zuma until the end of the day to resign.
Secretary-general of the ANC, Ace Magashule, delivered an official letter of notice to the presidential guesthouse on Tuesday morning, after the party made the decision to forcibly remove the head of state, who refuses to comply with a private request to quietly demit office.
The committee had earlier instructed the party president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to visit the South African president – at his residence – to personally request his resignation. The NEC made the decision after a 13-hour-long meeting outside Pretoria.
Ramaphosa delivered the ultimatum to Zuma shortly before midnight, asking that the president stand down or face “recall," which is a technical term for the process of forcible removal of an ANC official.
But, Zuma remained defiant demanding a three month “notice period,” according to an official who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity. News24 reported that NEC sources disclosed that Zuma asked "what he did wrong" during the private meeting with Ramaphosa.
The embattled head of state has been plagued with accusations of corruption as well as major economic decline during his nine years in office.
"We couldn't allow him to stay on. He was disrespecting the organization. The party also needs to move on, we need to have State of the Nation, we need investors to come back," a source explained to News24.
The president's refusal to resign will force the ANC to pursue a no-confidence motion in parliament, where the 75-year-old president enjoys significant support among party members.
“Zuma is not just a person. He is a system. There are a whole lot of people whose political fortunes are tied to his,” Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst, told The Guardian.
“We are watching a battle for the soul of the ANC. It’s a referendum on the true balance of power within the party.”
If Zuma is ousted by a no-confidence vote, the speaker of parliament will be appointed as interim president. The ANC has a majority in parliament and will likely select Ramaphosa for the position.