9 February 2018

South Africa: President's Talks With Deputy Fuel Resignation Speculation

Photo: GCIS
President Jacob Zuma attends meeting of the Heads of State on the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) prior to the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) scheduled to take place from 28-29 January 2018.

South African President Jacob Zuma held a second day of talks Wednesday with deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, fueling speculation the embattled Zuma will resign.

Ramaphosa, who in December replaced Zuma as the leader of the African National Congress, the country's ruling party, said the two leaders hope to finish their discussions and report to the nation "in coming days."

"This is a challenging time for our country," Ramaphosa said. "Both President Zuma and myself are aware that our people want and deserve closure. The constructive process we have embarked on offers the greatest opportunity to conclude this matter without discord or division."

The 75-year-old Zuma, who has resisted calls from party leaders to step down, has governed the country for a tumultuous nine year period that has been marked by economic decline and many allegations of corruption.

The talks began after the ANC delayed an emergency meeting of its national executive committee, which has the authority to order Zuma to resign, from Wednesday to February 17. The postponement also increased speculation that an agreement for Zuma to step down was being finalized.

The legislature took the unusual step of postponing the president's annual state of the national address on Thursday as the crisis intensified.

Zuma has been linked to many corruption scandals since he took office in 2009, including one where the government allegedly paid more than $20 million for improvements to his private estate.

Under Zuma's leadership, the economy has weakened and the ANC has performed poorly in elections, losing control of several major cities to the opposition Democratic Alliance.

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