South Africa’s president faces growing criticism within African National Congress with key allies calling for him to step down
Jacob Zuma at the ANC’s national executive committee meeting on Saturday. Photograph: Phill Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images
The South African president, Jacob Zuma, has faced further opposition at a meeting of his party’s top leadership but managed to sidestep a vote of no confidence after a turbulent three-day gathering.
The meeting in Pretoria on Sunday came as Zuma faces growing criticism within the ruling African National Congress, which sharpened after a March cabinet reshuffle when he sacked his respected finance minister, Pravin Gordhan.
Plans to debate a no-confidence motion in Zuma were blocked by the chairman of the meeting of the ANC’s executive committee (NEC), state-owned broadcaster SABC said. Local media reports said several NEC members had tried to force a debate on his future.
Speaking on Saturday, the ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, said the leadership was aware of reports that there was “going to be blood on the floor”. “We’ve not seen that blood on the floor – yet,” he said, while stressing that the removal of Zuma was “not an agenda item”.
The Sunday Times wrote in its leading article that Zuma had survived a string of scandals “precisely because most of the NEC is in his pocket”.
“Although his opponents went to this weekend’s NEC meeting saying they had never felt stronger, few would be surprised if he survived the guillotine again,” it said.
It published a graphic of supposed support and opposition to Zuma within the 107-member NEC, with 45 against and 41 in favour and the rest unknown.
City Press said Zuma’s supporters spent Thursday lobbying committee members to back him in the event of a no-confidence motion.
Aside from his woes within the party, including key ANC allies calling for him to stand down, Zuma has faced growing public anger over a series of government corruption scandals, record unemployment and a sluggish economy.
The crisis has led to two ratings agencies downgrading South Africaand has brought thousands of people on to the streets calling for Zuma to step down.
This weekend’s meeting of the NEC was the first since the controversial cabinet reshuffle, which triggered unprecedented criticism within the ANC.
A number of ANC allies have also urged Zuma to go, among them the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the South African Council of Churches (SACC).
The opposition has tabled a new no-confidence motion in parliament, which will be debated in the coming weeks. However, the president retains widespread support from ANC members in some rural areas and has been able to rely on lawmakers to survive previous votes of no confidence.
“The party will still want the ANC to remain in control over the broad issue of leadership. The ANC will not wish to look as though either the press or opposition parties … have sufficient influence to precipitate” his removal, independent political analyst Daniel Silke told AFP.
“This will ramble on until the end of the year when the normal electoral process (to pick a successor) will take place.”
The ANC is due to elect Zuma’s successor in December before general elections in 2019.