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Zuma's fate uncertain as ANC extends talks

November 28, 2016

Three ministers have called for South African President Jacob Zuma to resign in his most serious leadership challenge to date. The president is embroiled in multiple scandals and is losing support within his own party.

Südafrika Präsident Jacob Zuma
Image: Reuters/M. Hutchings

The embattled South African president is facing an unprecedented challenge to his rule within his own African National Congress (ANC) party. That's after a trio of top cabinet members - Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi - called for Zuma to resign.

The president faced further pressure this month when a corruption probe unearthed fresh allegations of misconduct by the country's top watchdog investigating possible criminal activity in Zuma's relationship with the Guptas, a business family accused of wielding undue political influence. This follows a scandal in which South Africa's highest court found him guilty of violating the constitution after he refused to repay taxpayers' money used to refurbish his private rural house.

But the 74-year-old enjoys strong loyalty among many rank-and-file ANC party members, as well as its lawmakers; this was demonstrated after he easily survived a vote of no confidence in parliament earlier this month.

The ANC has dominated South African politics since Nelson Mandela won the first post-apartheid elections in 1994. But it's recently seen its popularity dive; local polls in August delivered the party's worst-ever result. Zuma's term in office ends in 2019, but the ANC is due to elect a new party leader at the end of next year and it could replace him. That could happen sooner than expected. The ANC's national executive committee, which is empowered to remove the leader, extended a scheduled weekend meeting into a third day following the rebellion by the three ministers.

South Africans have a field day on social media

But one senior ANC official, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Reuters news agency that the president would probably survive this latest attempt to dislodge him by the growing number of ANC figures unhappy with his leadership. "Even if there's secret ballot, he's still likely to get the numbers," the official told Reuters. ANC officials did not respond to telephone calls seeking comment. In a statement on Sunday, the ANC did not give a reason for the extension of the meeting.

jar/kl (AFP, Reuters)