JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's ruling African National Congress party announced Tuesday that it would press President Jacob Zuma to resign despite his adamant refusal to relinquish his post amid corruption scandals.
The leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) delivered a letter to Zuma early Tuesday officially informing the beleaguered president of his party's decision to "recall" him at a meeting of its national executive committee, according to South Africa's News24.
Zuma, however, is holding on — he refused to resign, News24 reported. Parliament could also hold a vote of no confidence this month to force him out. Presidents in South Africa are chosen by ruling party lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, not by voters directly.
ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule said he expected Zuma to reply to the directive on Wednesday.
“We are giving him time and space to respond," Magashule said at a news conference. "We haven’t given him any deadline to respond (but) when we recall our (president), we expect (him) to do what the organization expects him to do."
He said Zuma had agreed to resign and wanted to stay in office for several more months, but the party's executive committee decided he had to leave at once.
While Zuma, 75, has survived a number of no confidence votes before, his supporters now see him as a political liability.
Zuma, who took office in 2009, has been embroiled in corruption scandals throughout most of his two terms. Late last year, South Africa's top court ruled that he violated the constitution when he paid for multimillion-dollar upgrades to his private home with state funds.
A judicial commission could soon begin to examine allegations of influence peddling and illegal contracts to Zuma cronies. Prosecutors are also mulling reviving corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago.
Zuma has denied all charges.
Corruption scandals involving Zuma have sunk the popularity of the ANC, which holds stature as a key player that fought white minority rule and is credited with the dismantling of apartheid in 1991.
Now, lawmakers are looking to remove Zuma ahead of national elections in 2019.
"The (ANC) is undergoing a period of difficulty, disunity and discord ... and (looking for) a new beginning," said ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa, who the party wants to be Zuma's successor. “Our people want this matter finalized, so the (party executive committee) is doing exactly that. We want closure.”
Zuma still has has allies, especially in his home state of Kwazulu-Natal. And he has the legacy as a freedom fighter is revered. Zuma has been part of the ANC for almost six decades and led the intelligence arm of the movement's underground military wing. He was jailed for 10 years on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela, the country's first black president, was also held.
Ramaphosa has held private talks with Zuma on a power transition setting off concern about backroom deals.
"I have got mixed feelings," said Johan Van Vuren, 32, a photographer in Johannesburg. "Zuma was an idiot, and I am happy he is out. At this moment there is not much worse than him, and it can only get better. But I don't really know if Ramaphosa can be trusted."