Jacob Zuma has defied an ultimatum from South Africa’s ruling party to resign within 48 hours, pitching the “Rainbow Nation” into an unprecedented political crisis. And if the year 2017 was the hardest for the government, in 2018, the political crisis deepened enormously.
Zuma’s tumultuous nine years in power have been marred by economic decline and multiple charges of corruption that undermined the image and legitimacy of the party that led South Africans to freedom from apartheid in 1994.
The ANC NEC held a 13-hour-long marathon meeting in Irene, outside Pretoria. The urgently called meeting started at 14:00 on Monday and ended at 03:00 on Tuesday.
At 23:00, the NEC instructed party President Cyril Ramaphosa and secretary-general Ace Magashule to drive to Zuma’s official residence Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria to give him an ultimatum to resign or face a recall.
However, the 75-year-old retains significant support inside the party and at a local level in many parts of South Africa. Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst and author, said: “Zuma is not just a person. He is a system. There are a whole lot of people whose politics fortunes are tied to his.
“We are watching a battle for the soul of the ANC. It’s a referendum on the true balance of power within the party.”
The opaque and secretive internal ANC debates and negotiations have much dark humour. Now, if Zuma had refused to resign even after a decision to recall him, the battleground would move to Parliament.
In the past, the ANC had called it the “worst form of betrayal” of the party if its MPs voted with the opposition.