South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), says it has decided that President Jacob Zuma must leave office, but said no deadline was set for him to resign.
ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule said on Tuesday that the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) believes Zuma’s removal “should be treated with urgency”.
However, he said that the NEC had not discussed any motion of no-confidence against the embattled president.
“The NEC therefore decided as follows: To recall its deployee, Comrade Jacob Zuma, in accordance with Rule 126.96.36.199 of the ANC Constitution, which accords the NEC the authority to ‘recall any public representative’.”
Magashule added “we will deal with that matter” if President Zuma refuses to heed the party decision, which was taken after exhaustive discussion.
The ANC decision is only a party-level instruction. Zuma is under no constitutional obligation to resign, which means if he refuses to step down, the party will have to navigate the prospect of calling for a motion of no-confidence against Zuma in parliament.
The president faces hundreds of corruption charges but has previously vowed to stay in office until his term ends next year.
Zuma was found to have given favour to an Indian-born immigrant family known as the Guptas, in what became known as the state capture scandal.
But there are still some who defend Zuma, saying he is being targeted unfairly in a system that is underpinned by corruption.
Zuma joined the ANC in 1958 and is considered one of the party stalwarts. He spent time on Robben Island and lived in exile before returning to the country in 1990.
Known for being an astute political operator, Zuma has survived several no-confidence votes in parliament and, until early February, believed he would survive another. But the tide has changed and several of his allies abandoned him.
Since being elected president of the ANC in December, Cyril Ramaphosa has been clear that he had no intention of humiliating Zuma.
The party reportedly wants him to bow out rather than drag the process to a no-confidence vote in parliament, which he is likely to lose.