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President Jacob Zuma defies ANC's ultimatum, refuses to step down

Agencies/Johannesburg 14 Feb 18 | 11:30 PM

(Photo: AP/PTI)

As Jacob Zuma’s nine-year tenure as South African president entered its final hours, he remained defiant, calling the ruling party’s push to remove him “unfair."

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The African National Congress intends passing a vote of no confidence in him in parliament on Thursday if he ignores an order from the party’s National Executive Committee by refusing to quit. His probable replacement, new ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa, could take office late tomorrow or Friday. If the motion succeeds, the entire cabinet must also resign.

“It’s clear for us as the ANC we can no longer wait beyond today," ANC Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile told reporters in Cape Town on Wednesday after a special meeting of the party’s parliamentary caucus. “My message to the caucus is they must proceed with the parliamentary process. A decision has been taken, it must be implemented."

The ANC wants a quick transition so Ramaphosa, a 65-year-old lawyer and one of the richest black South Africans, can move to fulfill pledges to revive the struggling economy, clamp down on corruption and rebuild its image ahead of elections scheduled for mid-2019. Any delays in parliament and establishing a new government will harm the party’s chances.

Zuma, in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corp, warned the ANC’s new leadership that “we are being plunged into a crisis that I think my comrades will not be able to handle." The 75-year-old former intelligence operative didn’t respond to a question about whether he will step down, saying he’ll announce his next move later on Wednesday.

“I have disagreed with a decision that is taken," Zuma said. “I think it is unfair. I felt I am being victimized here. That is not the way we do things. You can’t force the decision as it has been done now. Nobody has ever provided me with reasons. What is the problem? "

The no-confidence motion won’t take place should Zuma quit before the next parliamentary sitting, which is due to take place at 2 p.m. in Cape Town on Thursday. The entire ANC caucus, which accounts for 62 percent of the 400 parliamentary seats, agreed Zuma must go, Mashatile said. The motion needs the backing of a simple majority of lawmakers to pass.

Zuma has spent years fending off allegations that he took bribes from arms dealers and enabled members of the Gupta family, who are one of his son’s business partners, to influence cabinet appointments and loot billions of rand from state companies. The announcement of the party’s plans to vote him from office came hours after police raided the Johannesburg home of the Guptas. Zuma, his son and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing. 

Shortly after dawn, a dozen Hawks police officers sealed off a street leading to the Gupta mansion in Johannesburg’s upscale Saxonwold suburb. One blocked access to Reuters, saying: “This is a crime scene."

Minutes later, an unmarked police van left the compound as residents applauded police officers and hurled abuse at security guards for the Guptas, who have been accused by South Africa’s top anti-corruption watchdog of influence-peddling and swaying the appointment of cabinet ministers. 

“Finally something is being done about it. These guys must get out of our country. They must leave us alone. They have done enough damage," said Tessa Turvey, head of the local residents’ association, standing outside the compound's iron gates. 

Police also raided the Guptas' Oakbay holding company in Johannesburg's Sandton financial district, according to a security guard outside the building.

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