Jacob Zuma, speaks during a visit to the headquarters (Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg)

Zuma Remains Defiant as South Africa's ANC Moves to Oust Him

(Bloomberg) -- As Jacob Zuma’s nine-year tenure as South African president entered its final hours, he remained defiant, calling the ruling party’s push to remove him “unfair.”

The African National Congress intends passing a vote of no confidence in him in parliament on Thursday if he ignores an order from the party’s National Executive Committee by refusing to quit. His probable replacement, new ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa, could take office late tomorrow or Friday. If the motion succeeds, the entire cabinet must also resign.

“It’s clear for us as the ANC we can no longer wait beyond today,” ANC Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile told reporters in Cape Town on Wednesday after a special meeting of the party’s parliamentary caucus. “My message to the caucus is they must proceed with the parliamentary process. A decision has been taken, it must be implemented.”

The ANC wants a quick transition so Ramaphosa, a 65-year-old lawyer and one of the richest black South Africans, can move to fulfill pledges to revive the struggling economy, clamp down on corruption and rebuild its image ahead of elections scheduled for mid-2019. Any delays in parliament and establishing a new government will harm the party’s chances.

Zuma Defiant

Zuma, in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corp., warned the ANC’s new leadership that “we are being plunged into a crisis that I think my comrades will not be able to handle.”

The 75-year-old former intelligence operative didn’t respond to a question about whether he will step down, saying he’ll announce his next move later on Wednesday.

“I have disagreed with a decision that is taken,” Zuma said. “I think it is unfair. I felt I am being victimized here. That is not the way we do things. You can’t force the decision as it has been done now. Nobody has ever provided me with reasons. What is the problem? ”

The rand gained as much as 1.4 percent against the dollar and was 0.7 percent higher at 11.8771 by 4:41 p.m. in Johannesburg. Yields on benchmark government bonds due 2026 fell five basis points to 8.41 percent.

“A sustained revival of economic and investor confidence critically depends on the ability of the ANC leadership to effect a smooth and rapid transition of power,” said Phoenix Kalen, director of emerging-markets strategy at Société Générale SA. “Time is of the essence, as Cyril Ramaphosa will crucially need the maximum amount of time before the next general election to deliver concrete improvements.”

ANC Support

The no-confidence motion won’t take place should Zuma quit before the next parliamentary sitting, which is due to take place at 2 p.m. in Cape Town on Thursday. The entire ANC caucus, which accounts for 62 percent of the 400 parliamentary seats, agreed Zuma must go, Mashatile said. The motion needs the backing of a simple majority of lawmakers to pass.

Zuma has spent years fending off allegations that he took bribes from arms dealers and enabled members of the Gupta family, who are one of his son’s business partners, to influence cabinet appointments and loot billions of rand from state companies.

The announcement of the party’s plans to vote him from office came hours after police raided the Johannesburg home of the Guptas. Zuma, his son and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.