ANC Abandons Zuma as Ramaphosa Poised to Lead South Africa

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s ruling party decided that its newly elected leader Cyril Ramaphosa will replace Jacob Zuma as president but set no time frame for a transition of power.

The African National Congress’s National Executive Committee didn’t impose a deadline for Zuma to resign and wanted to give him “time and space” to respond to the decision taken during a 13-hour meeting that ended early Tuesday, ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule said. While Zuma agreed in principle to step down, he wanted to remain in office for up to six months, which the party considered too long.

ANC Abandons Zuma as Ramaphosa Poised to Lead South Africa

“The decision of the NEC is now final,” Magashule said. “That decision can’t change. We are not treating Jacob Zuma as a leader who is defiant. We will treat him with dignity. There is no need for us to humiliate him. I’m sure the president will respond tomorrow.”

The order for Zuma to go marked the failure of efforts to agree to an amicable transfer of power from his scandal-ridden administration. The ANC wants Ramaphosa, 65, to take over as soon as possible before elections next year so he has time to show he can meet his pledges to rebuild a battered economy -- the most industrialized in Africa -- and clamp down on the graft.

“It is a major milestone that the ANC has an agreement and a consensus on letting President Zuma go,” said Somadoda Fikeni, a politics professor at the University of South Africa in the capital, Pretoria. “Every indication is that in a day or two, he will step down.”

The rand erased gains to weaken 0.3 percent to 11.9736 per dollar by 4:06 p.m. in Johannesburg. Yields on benchmark government rand bonds due December 2026 climbed six basis points to 8.45 percent.

ANC Abandons Zuma as Ramaphosa Poised to Lead South Africa

Unless Zuma agrees to go soon, the ANC may have to order its lawmakers in parliament to approve a motion of no confidence in the president. The political impasse already forced the unprecedented postponement of last week’s scheduled annual state-of-the-nation address and may imperil the presentation of the budget on Feb. 21.

Magashule said the party hasn’t proposed a no-confidence motion and that it took the decision to replace Zuma to address the anxiety in the country over the transition to a new administration.

“President Zuma has not been found guilty by any court of law,” he said. “We didn’t take these decisions because President Zuma has done anything wrong.”

Parliamentary Caucus

The ANC will convene a special meeting of its parliamentary caucus on Wednesday, its chief whip, Jackson Mthembu, said, without revealing what would be discussed.

“The ANC’s decision to recall Jacob Zuma is a political death sentence from which there can be no escape,” Ben Payton, head of Africa Research at Verisk Maplecroft, a Bath, England-based risk-advisory company, said by email. “Whether or not Zuma agrees to resign is ultimately irrelevant. If Zuma refuses to leave office he will face a vote of confidence in parliament which he is certain to lose.”

Zuma, 75, the ANC’s former head of intelligence, took office in May 2009 just weeks after prosecutors dropped graft charges against him. He spent years fighting a bid by opposition parties to have those charges reinstated and fending off allegations that he allowed members of the Gupta family, who are in business with one of his sons, to influence cabinet appointments and the award of state contracts.

“This country has been in need of new leadership with fresh ideas for some time,” said Sydney Mufamadi, a former cabinet minister and director of the University of Johannesburg’s School of Leadership. “President Zuma should have known that as far as South Africans are concerned he has overstayed his welcome. I think the ANC is being polite to him. If I were him I would not ask for more time.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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