Following a charge by those seen as close to party president Cyril Ramaphosa, the NEC finally resolved on Zuma’s early exit as state president at its meeting last week, which they said must be managed by the national officials.
On Monday, the officials are meeting at Luthuli House for the first time after the decision, where they are expected to discuss the matter, among other issues.
The NEC has, however, not given the top officials the exact time frame within which Zuma’s exit must take place. ANC insiders in the NEC have indicated it was imminent.
“The ANC president (Ramaphosa) has said the party must not embarrass Zuma, so he must be engaged first by the officials and be allowed to express his thoughts about the decision,” one NEC member said.
Ramaphosa will not attend the meeting of the officials as he is leading a delegation of government and business to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he plans to lobby investors to look to South Africa as an investment destination.
The move on Zuma comes as he and the National Prosecuting Authority are appealing against the ruling by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, which declared National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams’s appointment by Zuma as unlawful.
The court ordered that Ramaphosa be the one who appoints a new NDPP within 60 days, as Zuma was conflicted owing to him being implicated in corruption allegations, including the Spy Tapes case which the new NPA head has to decide on.
With diminished economic prospects and state capture allegations implicating Zuma, the controversial Gupta family with whom he enjoys close ties along with a number of ministers, some in the ANC top brass say his continued stay as state president would deal a huge blow to the ANC’s electoral fortunes in 2019.
It is unclear, however, what the ANC’s national officials and the NEC will do should Zuma insist on finishing his term of office, which will end next year.
Another NEC member said Zuma would be pushed out through a motion of no-confidence in Parliament should he refuse to step down.
“It is unlikely that he will refuse to step down there is no debate about him finishing his term, for obvious reasons. He would not want the activation of a parliamentary process,” said the member.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the new ANC had to allow Zuma to deliver his last State of the Nation Address next month as his farewell speech.
“What is the worst that could happen? They must allow him to deliver it and leave. “I think the new ANC leadership has tried very hard to demonstrate that it is not personally hostile towards him but they have a job to do,” he said.
Mathekga said Zuma knew the mood and anxiety of the nation about his continued stay in office and that he was becoming a liability to the ANC.
“He does not even need to be told by the officials of the decision of the ANC NEC that he must leave, he knows he has to go.
“I think given their posture, they will allow him to deliver the speech and then he must leave, otherwise they will be left with no other choice but to push him out,” Mathekga said.
As he left for Davos on Sunday, Ramaphosa was planning to convince investors and credit rating agencies that political uncertainty and instability in parastatals was being addressed by the government, bolstered by the outcomes of the ANC’s national elective conference last month. The country has faced a bleak economic outlook recently as it failed to grow the economy beyond 0.3%.
That, coupled with credit rating agencies downgrading the country to below investment grade.
Rampant corruption and state capture allegations in government and in key state-owned companies, including Eskom, have contributed to the country’s bad image in the eyes of potential investors.
As Ramaphosa has appeared to up his stance against what he has termed deepening rot in SOEs, Eskom chairperson Zethembe Khoza tendered his resignation from the embattled power utility on Friday.
A new board, chaired by former Telkom chairman Jabu Mabuza, was announced on Saturday.
In a statement announcing the decision, Ramaphosa called on the new board to remove all those implicated in state capture and corruption in the power utility’s executive management.
These include group executive for generation Matshela Koko and suspended group chief financial officer Anoj Singh.