Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa hold ‘constructive’ talks on South African crisis
South African president under pressure because of ongoing corruption allegations
Baleka Mbete, speaker of the national assembly, announces that the state of the nation address, due to be delivered by president Jacob Zuma, has been postponed, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photograph: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters
Jacob Zuma has been South Africa’s president since 2009. File photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
The decision came after “constructive” talks between Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Pule Mabe, spokesman for the ANC said late last night. Ramaphosa replaced the president as leader of the ruling African National Congress in December.
Earlier, parliament decided to ask Zuma to delay his state-of-the-nation address due to fears of violence, National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete told reporters outside parliament in Cape Town.
Mr Zuma is facing multiple charges of corruption. The 75-year-old’s annual address to parliament has now been postponed, possibly by a week.
“We decided to approach [president Jacob Zuma] to postpone the state of the nation address . . . We need to create room for establishing a much more conducive atmosphere in parliament,” Mbete told reporters yesterday. Ms Mbete did not give a new date for the speech.
The Economic Freedom Fighters, the nation’s second largest opposition party, whose members dress in red overalls, have delayed the start of Zuma’s previous speeches, heckled him and demanded his resignation before walking out en masse. Should Zuma deliver the address, the Economic Freedom Fighters have promised similar actions.
But an address by Zuma would leave some ANC lawmakers in a difficult situation - whether to visibly support him, adopt a critical pose, remain neutral or boycott the address. A statement from the presidency later claimed Mr Zuma had requested the delay.
Senior ANC leaders met Mr Zuma over the weekend to ask him to step down. Local media reported that the 75-year-old president, who is battling corruption allegations, refused.
According to ANC rules, all members – even elected officials – fulfil their functions according to the will of the party.
His premature departure – Mr Zuma’s second five-year term is due to expire next year – would consolidate the power of Mr Ramaphosa who is the country’s deputy president.
Supporters of Mr Ramaphosa, a multimillionaire businessman who is seen as the standard bearer of the reformist wing of the party, say it is essential that Mr Zuma is sidelined as early as possible to allow the ANC to regroup before campaigning starts in earnest for elections in 2019.
Mr Zuma had led the ANC since 2007 and has been South Africa’s president since 2009.
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