South Africa’s ruling party has finally fired president Jacob Zuma, and yet he hangs on

The long goodbye?
The long goodbye?
Image: AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has recalled president Jacob Zuma. In a televised press briefing Feb. 13, the party announced that “deployee” Zuma has been recalled from his post. Zuma, however, is trying to hold on for at least three more months.

The announcement follows more than a week of tense speculation, but it doesn’t quite bring the “closure” deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa promised. The ANC said it informed Zuma of its ultimatum: Resign voluntarily or be removed. Zuma, 75, has been in power for over a decade; he is being forced out over a corruption scandal related to a 1990s arms deal. During his nearly two-term presidency, Zuma has faced mounting corruption allegations that state-owned companies were used to enrich his family and his allies. He has denied all allegations against him.

Zuma has become accustomed to calls for him to step down. This time, he’s stalling by claiming that international engagements with BRICS (the struggling economic alliance between Brazil, India, China and South Africa) and the Southern African Development Community keep him in office. He’s even offered to use his notice period to introduce Ramaphosa to the international community.

The ANC is allowing Zuma to decide when he’ll leave, which could further frustrate South Africans who are watching news channels like characters in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot. Reports said that Zuma has 48 hours to respond, but the ANC refused to confirm the deadline.

On Sunday, Ramaphosa, who is also the head of the ANC, promised South Africans that Zuma’s “transition” would be finalized on Monday. A 12-hour, closed door meeting tested this resolve. When the car of the billionaire businessman left the  meeting to drive to Zuma’s home after 10pm, it seemed that Ramaphosa finally made good on his word.

Zuma, however, retains power as he effectively negotiates his own exit. The terms of his exit are still unclear, including questions on whether he’ll stand trial for fraud, racketeering, and corruption, charges he has avoided while president. South Africans now, just want to know when he’ll go.