JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s ruling African National Congress warned President Jacob Zuma that he faced ouster through a no-confidence vote if he did not resign Wednesday, a day after the party demanded he step down amid corruption allegations.
Following a meeting in Cape Town, party leaders said they would initiate the motion of no confidence on Thursday in Parliament as pressure ratcheted up on South Africa’s once-powerful president.
Parliament has the authority to push out Zuma, and his critics say there were enough anti-Zuma votes to carry the day.
The ultimatum by the ANC — the party that brought South Africa out of the apartheid era — is the culmination of a long-simmering battle over Zuma’s future after nearly a decade in power. Increasingly, Zuma has been pummeled by a series of graft scandals and the complaints over the government’s inability to turn around a sagging economy.
“The ball is in [Zuma’s] court,” said the ANC’s treasurer general, Paul Mashatile, at a briefing after the caucus. “We can’t wait. It’s not fair to South Africans, not fair to the ANC, not fair to anybody. Everything has come to a standstill. We need to be able to move.”
The ANC said Tuesday that its executive committee decided to recall Zuma “to provide certainty to the people of South Africa” amid social and economic challenges, and said it expected to hear back from Zuma the following day.
Following the threat by the ANC, Zuma appeared on the state broadcaster SABC to say that the call to resign was “unfair” and the party had not made clear what he had to resign for.
For years, Zuma has outmaneuvered his detractors, and ANC parliamentarians have backed their leader in a series of votes to unseat him in parliament.
But after being replaced as party leader by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in December, Zuma’s support has eroded.
Even old allies that staunchly supported Zuma for years have also demanded Zuma step down. Early Wednesday, an elite police unit raided a Johannesburg compound belonging to the wealthy Gupta family, accused of colluding with Zuma. The raid was interpreted by some as a warning for Zuma to act soon.
Malusi Gigaba, appointed as finance minister last year, called for his longtime ally to “do the right thing” and step down on Wednesday.
“Should he refuse, we would then have to resort on a parliamentary process,” Gigaba told CNN, referring to a possible motion of no confidence against the president in parliament. “With a 62 percent majority and the support of the other opposition parties, we are certain to pass, but it’s not the direction that we would have wanted.”
Other party leaders were more direct.
If you disrespect and disobey the ANC, “we are going to let you be devoured by the vultures,” ANC National Chairperson Gwede Mantashe said on Tuesday, according to local news outlet eNCA.
In Johannesburg, three suspects were arrested at several locations, according to a police statement. The arrests were in connection with an investigation into the alleged diversion of public funds earmarked for a farming program for the Gupta family’s personal use.
If Zuma steps down, Ramaphosa automatically becomes acting president according to South African law, and parliament must elect a new president in 30 days.