South Africa was plunged into political turmoil on Tuesday when the country’s ruling African National Congress announced it had demanded the resignation of President Jacob Zuma – but that the 75-year-old veteran had refused to go.
The decision by the ANC, the party once led by Nelson Mandela, to announce the “recall” of Zuma was the culmination of a marathon meeting that stretched into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Top ANC officials, including party leader Cyril Ramaphosa, tried to persuade Zuma to step down in the face of a corruption scandal that has sapped support for the party. But despite hours of talks, Zuma refused to budge.
ANC officials admitted they had no idea whether Zuma would bow to the their recall demand – which has no constitutional effect – or cling on to power and face a vote of no confidence in parliament organized by opposition parties.
It was obvious on Tuesday that Zuma was reluctant to go. ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule told a press conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday that Zuma had agreed to stand down – but only if he could oversee a transition period of three to six months. The ANC top brass rejected his offer.
“South Africa’s going through a period of uncertainty and anxiety as a result of the unresolved matter of transition,” Magashule said, adding that the decision to demand Zuma’s resignation was a difficult one “taken after exhaustive discussions.”