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8 February 2018 | South Africa

S.Africa opposition demand end to Zuma impasse

Gregory WALTON
Supporters of the African National Congress Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa demonstrated against President Jacob Zuma outside ANC party headquarters in Johannesburg earlier this week.  By MARCO LONGARI (AFP/File)
Supporters of the African National Congress Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa demonstrated against President Jacob Zuma outside ANC party headquarters in Johannesburg earlier this week. By MARCO LONGARI (AFP/File)

South Africa's opposition demanded Thursday that the ruling ANC party end confusion over President Jacob Zuma's expected departure from office as slow-motion handover talks continued in Cape Town.

ANC party officials met with Zuma on Sunday to request his resignation, but he refused, triggering a week of dramatic political manoeuvering.

Cyril Ramaphosa, the president-in-waiting, has said that "transition" talks with Zuma were making progress.

But he gave no further details and admitted that the process was causing "uncertainty surrounding the position of head of state".

Leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party Mmusi Maimane warned that South Africa could not "be held in limbo while Cyril Ramaphosa and Jacob Zuma... fight over the terms of Zuma's exit".

"We need a swift resolution to this impasse as soon as possible," Maimane added, calling for parliament to vote in a no-confidence motion against the president on Tuesday.

Zuma, whose rule since 2009 has been dominated by graft scandals, has been under growing pressure to quit in favour of Ramaphosa, his deputy and the new African National Congress (ANC) party leader.

Maimane also said that Zuma, who is facing numerous legal cases, must not be offered criminal amnesty as part of a resignation deal.

"He is not above the law," Maimane said, predicting that "Jacob Zuma will retire in prison."

Spokesman for the radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told the News24 site that it would seek a "national shutdown" to force Zuma out.

Zuma digging in?

South African President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa attended a routine meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Thursday South African President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa attended a routine meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Thursday

The TimesLIVE news site on Thursday published audio of ANC treasurer general Paul Mashatile saying that Zuma had refused to resign and that the ANC had been ready to recall him at a crunch meeting.

That gathering, scheduled for Wednesday, was cancelled at short notice with Ramaphosa saying the move would "enable President Zuma and myself to conclude our discussions... in the coming days".

"Normally when a sitting president is asked to step down, it happens. But President Zuma has declared his unwillingness," said Amanda Gouws, a political science professor at Stellenbosch University.

"Now it seems he is trying to negotiate a deal which will free him and his family from prosecution after he steps down -- that puts Ramaphosa in a very difficult position."

The power struggle has rocked the ANC, the renowned liberation movement that under Nelson Mandela led the fight against white-minority rule but has since lost much public support.

Despite the attacks on him, Zuma still enjoys some backing within the party, particularly among rural members and within his own Zulu community.

His presidency has been marked by an economic slowdown, record unemployment and multiple allegations of corruption.

He faces several court cases, including action relating to 783 payments he received allegedly linked to an arms deal before he came to power in 2009.

Many graft allegations against him have centred on the wealthy Gupta family, who are accused of unfairly obtaining lucrative government contracts and even being able to choose ministerial appointments.

Save South Africa, an anti-Zuma campaign group, said it was "deeply concerned at the veil of secrecy surrounding negotiations" over Zuma's exit.

"Shuffling Zuma out of the back-door, with any number of trade-offs and compromises, is not only bad for Mr Ramaphosa - it is bad for South Africa," it said.

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