ANC said to agree on Zuma exit as South African President

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma could be removed in the next two weeks, according to senior party officials of the African National Congress. PHOTO: REUTERS

JOHANNESBURG (BLOOMBERG) - The leadership of South Africa's ruling party decided that President Jacob Zuma must leave office but didn't set a time-frame for his exit, according to six senior party officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The newly elected top six leaders of the party will manage the transition that will concentrate power in the hands of his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who won control of the African National Congress a month ago, according to the officials who are members of the ANC's National Executive Committee, which took the decision at a meeting near the capital Pretoria late Friday (Jan 19) night.

Mr Zuma, whose scandal-ridden administration has dampened investor confidence in the South African economy and voter support for the ANC, could be removed in the next two weeks, enabling Mr Ramaphosa to deliver the annual state-of the-nation address on Feb 8, two of the officials said.

The ANC leadership wants Mr Zuma out as president before the start of campaigning for next year's general elections, they said.

"The NEC agreed that the ANC must act decisively and with determination to rebuild the bond of trust between our people and the movement, restore the dignity of our movement, and reclaim the moral legitimacy of our movement," the party said in a statement Saturday.

Mr Ramaphosa and other party officials "will continue their engagement with President Jacob Zuma to ensure effective coordination between the ANC and the government," it said, without confirming Mr Zuma will step down.

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mr Zuma's departure would enable Mr Ramaphosa, 65, to take over as the nation's president and try to convince voters that he's committed to meeting his pledges to rebuild the battered economy and clamp down on the graft that's become synonymous with the Zuma era.

There was further evidence of Mr Ramaphosa cementing control over the ANC at Friday's meeting, with his allies securing most seats on the party 26-member National Working Committee that oversees its running on a day-to-day basis.

The NEC also decided to suspend the ANC's provincial executive committees in the KwaZulu-Natal and Free State provinces, which were closely aligned to Mr Zuma and were declared by the courts to have not been properly elected. Interim structures will run the party there until a new vote can be held.

Mr Ramaphosa, a lawyer and one of the wealthiest black South Africans, is widely expected to adopt more business-friendly policies and his election as ANC leader helped boost the rand 11 per cent last month, the most among the world's major currencies. He's leading South Africa's delegation to the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos next week.

Mr Zuma's second and final term was due to end around mid-2019. He survived two previous bids to topple him at NEC since November 2016, but the balance of power in the panel shifted after the elective conference in December.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.