Zuma sur­vives at­tempted oust­ing


JO­HAN­NES­BURG: South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma sur­vived an at­tempt to oust him from of­fice af­ter a “ro­bust” and “dif­fi­cult” de­bate within the rul­ing ANC party, an of­fi­cial said Tues­day.

Zuma has been weak­ened by cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions, but his sup­port­ers were taken by sur­prise at the bid to un­seat him at a week­end meet­ing of the African Na­tional Congress’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

The re­bel­lion, led by at least four min­is­ters, was the most se­ri­ous threat to Zuma’s hold on power since he be­came pres­i­dent in 2009.

It also shook the ANC party, which has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994 but re­cently suf­fered a sharp set­back in lo­cal elec­tions.

“Fol­low­ing ro­bust, hon­est, can­did and at times dif­fi­cult dis­cus­sions, the ( ANC ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee) did not sup­port the call for the pres­i­dent to step down,” Gwede Man­tashe, the ANC sec­re­tary gen­eral, told reporters.

“All mem­bers of the ( ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee) had an op­por­tu­nity to raise, in the meet­ing, the is­sues they feel are hurt­ing the move­ment and the coun­try.”

Lo­cal me­dia said the meet­ing — which was ex­tended into Mon­day — was tense, with tem­pers flar­ing and some min­is­ters threat­en­ing to re­sign if Zuma stayed.

But the pres­i­dent launched a fierce de­fense of his po­si­tion, and his loy­al­ists even­tu­ally headed off the at­tempt to oust him.

“The pres­i­dent told us that he will never step down, as it would be like hand­ing him­self over to the enemy, and that there are peo­ple who want to see him in jail,” an un­named source at the closed- door meet­ing told the News24 web­site.

Zuma left South Africa early on Tues­day to at­tend the fu­neral of Cuban leader Fidel Cas­tro.

The pres­i­dent has been hit by mul­ti­ple cor- rup­tion scan­dals and dam­ag­ing court rul­ings this year, while the ANC per­formed poorly in lo­cal polls in Au­gust and un­em­ploy­ment has hit a 13- year high.

Zuma has been un­der re­newed pres­sure since a graft probe ear­lier this month un­earthed fresh al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct.

The probe by the coun­try’s top watch­dog un­cov­ered ev­i­dence of pos­si­ble crim­i­nal ac­tiv- ity in his re­la­tion­ship with the Gup­tas, a busi­ness fam­ily ac­cused of wield­ing un­due po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence.

How­ever Zuma, 74, re­tains strong loy­alty among many rank-and-file ANC party mem­bers, as well as its law­mak­ers.

He eas­ily sur­vived a vote of no con­fi­dence in Par­lia­ment on Nov. 10.

“Zuma will only leave when the pa­tron­age fac­tion around him de­cide it is time,” Peter Mon­talto, an­a­lyst from No­mura bank, said in a brief­ing note.

“The ANC may well be tired of Zuma but it’s not clear it is ready to con­clude any­thing on suc­ces­sion yet.”

Zuma is due to stand down in 2019 af­ter serv­ing the max­i­mum two terms.

South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

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