JOHANNESBURG, February 13 – President Jacob Zuma has done nothing wrong as party leader and South African statesman, African National Congress secretary general Ace Magashule said after confirming the recall of the beleaguered state president.
”We are still treating Comrade Zuma as the president of the country. He has not been found guilty in a court of law…we did not take the decision because we think he did something wrong,” Magashule told reporters in Johannesburg.
A staunch Zuma supporter, Magashule was at pains trying to explain to journalists why his long-time ally was shown the door by the governing party. Although there was no deadline given to Zuma to step down, he is expected to revert to party leaders on Tuesday, Magashule added.
The scandal-ridden Zuma asked the ruling party an extension of three to six months before his departure. This, said Magashule, was because the president wanted to introduce the next South African president to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Brics and the African Union (AU).
”If Comrade Zuma wants to further engage with us we will do so…we are all given grace periods in whatever we do, as an employee you get that from your employers as well. However, the NEC decision to recall Zuma is final and cannot be changed.”
Describing his and party president Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to Zuma at the Mahlambandlopfu official residence in Pretoria on Monday night to inform him of the NEC decision, Magashule said Zuma was ”cordial and up and about”.
”We did not find him sleeping, he was up, healthy as he is. Our discussions were cordial because we respect him as leader. I have always supported Comrade Zuma as the leader of the ANC. As members, we rally and support a leader at any given time.”
Magashule said Zuma has never demanded conditions for his exit as it had been reported.
The party top brass were yet to decide who would take over as the country’s deputy president once Ramaphosa occupies the Union Buildings.
Names such as that of NEC members Lindiwe Sisulu and Naledi Pandor have reportedly been put forward for the deputy presidency.
”The national executive committee decided to recall the president in accordance with rule 12.2 of the ANC, which allows the ANC to recall it’s deployees,” Magashule told reporters at party headquarters, Luthuli House.
He said there was no deadline given to Zuma, who had asked the party to give him three to six months before he could vacate the Union Buildings.
“We will see what comrade Zuma’s response is, but it’s obvious that we want [ANC president] comrade Ramaphosa to take over as the president of the country.”
Pressure mounted on the beleaguered Zuma to step down. South Africans have lambasted the protracted ”transition talks” that started last week, demanding an end to the impasse.
The ANC leadership came under heavy criticism from commentators and social media users accusing the governing party of being ”too soft” on Zuma by not firing him instantly and ending the political stalemate. This saw opposition parties demand that a February 22 motion of no confidence debate be moved forward to this week.
The parties also demanded that Parliament be dissolved and early elections held to ”seek a new mandate” from South Africans.
The country’s general elections are set to be held in 2019.