JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s governing party remained split internally on whether the current president should leave office before his term expires, the deputy head of the African National Conference admitted at a press conference on Tuesday.
Jessie Duarte stated that six main leaders of the party had met on Saturday and discussed the issue, although the only body capable of forcing Jacob Zuma’s exit was the national executive committee, which is to convene Wednesday.
Zuma reportedly maintained an “arrogant” stance during Saturday’s two-hour meeting with the six ANC leaders, refusing to resign and claiming that the people still love him, according to party sources quoted by local media.
The current president’s term limit expires June 2, 2019, but corruption scandals led to Zuma’s ouster as the head of his party in December and replacement by Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa, considered the favorite to win the 2019 presidential election.
The ANC’s rules establish that all party members, including elected officials, must submit to the will of the party, although if Zuma does not want to leave office, the only possible way to remove him from the presidency would be a parliamentary motion of no confidence.
After overcoming seven previous motions of no confidence related to corruption, Zuma will face a new one on Feb. 22, requested by an opposition party.
In recent weeks there has been growing rumors of a possible departure of the president, forced by the ANC itself, despite the fact that its new leader Ramaphosa maintains a public message of party unity.
The ANC has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid, having won with more than 60 percent of the votes in all democratic general elections held to date.