Cape Town - The top leadership of South African’s ruling African National Congress will discuss the option of removing President Jacob Zuma from his post at a May 26 to 28 meeting, according to two senior party officials who will be in attendance and asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorised to speak publicly on the matter.
The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) is due to discuss a motion of no confidence in Zuma that has been filed by opposition parties in Parliament.
Some members of the panel will also raise the possibility of the ANC taking the matter into its own hands, according to the party officials, who sit on the decision-making panel. The rand gained as much as 1.5% against the dollar.
While the NEC rejected the possibility of removing Zuma at a meeting in November, opposition to his rule has mounted within the party’s ranks following his March 31 decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, a move that prompted S&P Global Ratings and Fitch to downgrade the nation’s sovereign credit rating to junk.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said that while the agenda will only be set at the meeting, the committee wouldn’t discuss Zuma’s removal.
The ANC will want to avoid a situation in which its lawmakers back the opposition motion to force Zuma to resign, said Anthony Butler, a political science professor at the University of Cape Town.
"The decision to remove Zuma as president of the country would be taken by the NEC and then communicated to the parliamentary caucus," he said. "A vote of no confidence would be, in the ANC’s logic, a dangerous thing, as it could create serious intra-party conflict and an inability to regroup."
The Constitutional Court is considering whether to agree to an opposition party call for a secret ballot on the no-confidence motion in Zuma. The chances of Zuma being recalled remain low, Peter Attard Montalto, a London-based economist at Nomura International, said by email.
"We expect actually the NEC meeting this weekend to send a formal instruction to the National Assembly caucus to not vote for the no-confidence motion regardless of the secret ballot case outcome," he said.
Zuma is due to step down as ANC leader in December and as president in 2019. His term has been marred by a succession of scandals, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he violated his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer money spent on his private home.
Labor unions and the South African Communist Party, which form part of the country’s ruling coalition, have called for his replacement.
"The NEC can force Zuma to stop being president of the country, but not of the ANC as this can only be done at an electoral conference," Butler said.
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