Cape Town (AFP) – South Africa’s president-in-waiting Cyril Ramaphosa will address a major ANC party rally in Cape Town Sunday as the country is gripped by the deadlock over talks to oust scandal-hit President Jacob Zuma from office.
With Zuma refusing a party request to resign, the ANC has said its top decision-making committee will meet on Monday, without revealing what will be on the agenda.
The committee has the power to recall the embattled president.
“An NEC (national executive committee) meeting is scheduled for tomorrow in Pretoria,” ANC spokeswoman Khusela Diko told AFP.
Ramaphosa has said negotiations should be concluded within days, but Zuma has clung to power after rejecting a request by senior officials of the ruling African National Congress to resign a week ago.
On Sunday afternoon, tens of thousands of ANC supporters were expected to gather for the rally in the symbolic venue of the Grand Parade in central Cape Town.
On the same day in 1990, Nelson Mandela spoke to wildly celebrating crowds packed into the square, hours after his release from prison — a key moment in South Africa’s modern re-birth as apartheid white-minority rule crumbled.
Holding the microphone for Mandela that day was a young Ramaphosa, then a trade union leader.
Zuma’s presidency has been marred by corruption scandals, slow economic growth and record unemployment that have fuelled public anger in sharp contrast to national optimism after Mandela’s release.
The stalemate over Zuma leaving office has left South Africa in limbo, with a series of public events cancelled last week including Thursday’s State of the Nation address to parliament in Cape Town.
Zuma’s hold over the ANC was shaken in December, when his chosen successor — his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma — narrowly lost out to Ramaphosa in a vote to be the new party leader.
Sunday’s rally is part of ANC celebrations marking 100 years since Mandela’s birth, when Ramaphosa will try to revive the party’s tainted reputation ahead of next year’s general election.
– Dispute over exit deal? –
Local media said a key sticking point in the negotiations was the legal fees Zuma faces in prolonged court battles against multiple criminal cases.
One relates to 783 payments he allegedly received linked to an arms deal before he came to power.
He is also reportedly seeking legal protection for his family and other associates who have been involved in controversial business deals.
“We are confident when (Zuma and Ramaphosa) finish they’ll give South Africa a positive way forward,” Environment Minister Edna Molewa said Saturday.
Susan Booysen, a politics professor from Wits University in Johannesburg, said Zuma may fight on for several more days.
“A stalemate is the best description for the situation,” she told AFP.
“Zuma is a fighter to the end and is refusing to resign, while Ramaphosa doesn’t want to be divisive.”
– Not so speedy –
The ANC has insisted there will be no delay to the budget, which is on February 21.
Ramaphosa has made no official comment since Wednesday when he pledged “a speedy resolution of the matter”, while Zuma has not spoken since being asked to resign by senior ANC officials on February 4.
The pro-Zuma New Age newspaper said Zuma would gather his family over the weekend at his residence in Pretoria to inform them of his decision.
Many of the recent graft allegations against Zuma are linked to the Guptas, a wealthy Indian business family accused of improperly winning government contracts and influencing cabinet appointments.
In 2008, the party pushed out then-president Thabo Mbeki over allegations of abuse of power.
Under Zuma, the ANC suffered its worst electoral setback since coming to power under Mandela in 1994, winning less than 54 percent of the vote in municipal elections in 2016.