Zuma is on the ropes — but he is famous for his skill in the game of political survival. By SIMON MAINA (AFP/File)
South Africa’s scandal-tainted president, Jacob Zuma, is at the brink of being ousted after an extraordinary two-month saga.
Here are key moments in the drama:
New ANC chief
The African National Congress (ANC) met in December to elect a new leader to succeed Zuma.
The battle was bitter, closely-fought and high stakes — the winner could be expected to become the head of state and then lead the ANC into elections in 2019.
Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma faced off against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Zuma’s critics accused him of seeking to install his former spouse to protect himself from legal action after leaving office.
On December 18, Ramaphosa won the tight contest, leaving Zuma stony-faced.
Zuma refuses to go
The ANC’s “Top Six” officials including Ramaphosa approached Zuma at his Pretoria residence on February 4 to call on him to resign.
But Zuma refused to budge.
Parliament address delayed
On February 6, a much-anticipated annual presidential speech to parliament that is typically half policy and half political theatre was postponed due to the tense stand-off between Zuma and his party’s leadership.
The parliament Speaker, who agreed to the delay that was called for by the opposition and agreed to by Zuma, said a “more conducive” atmosphere would be needed for the speech.
No new date was given but all sides said it should be before the annual budget which is due on February 21.
Zuma met his likely successor Ramaphosa for one-on-one crisis discussions on February 6 described as “productive”.
A day later, Ramaphosa told the nation that the impasse would be resolved within days.
But that was not forthcoming and local media reported that the talks were deadlocked as Zuma attempted to negotiate immunity from prosecution for himself and his family — alongside seeking an assurance that his mounting legal bills would be guaranteed.
On Sunday February 11, thousands of ANC supporters gathered in Cape Town for a rally to commemorate Nelson Mandela.
Ramaphosa told the crowd that “we know you want this matter to be finalised” and added that he would root out corruption in government and the party.
The top decision-making body of the ANC met again on Monday while Zuma continued to stall in an effort to cling to power for another three months.
In dramatic scenes, Ramaphosa and top ANC officials left an all-night party executive meeting outside Pretoria in a heavily-guarded police convoy to drive to Zuma’s residence to again demand he resign — which Zuma flatly refused.
In the early hours of Tuesday, the meeting agreed to “recall” the president from office — an order effectively sacking him from the job as the ANC’s chosen head of state. But, constitutionally, Zuma does not have to obey the instruction.
In a rambling televised speech on Wednesday, Zuma said he did not “agree” with the ANC leadership, “as there is no evidence of if I have done anything wrong.”
Alleging he was being victimised, he said, “It was very unfair to me that this (resignation) issue is raised.”