S. Africa postpones State of Nation address amid turmoil

30 views
Members of the media are seen behind a bust of Nelson Mandela outside Parliament after it was announced that the State of the Nation address, due to be delivered by President Jacob Zuma, has been postponed, in Cape Town, South Africa, on Tuesday. — Reuters

CAPE TOWN — South Africa on Tuesday postponed its State of the Nation address, the keynote political event of the year, as the ruling ANC party grappled over a battle to unseat President Jacob Zuma.

Zuma, in power since 2009, is fighting for his survival and faces the imminent risk of being ousted from office by his own party after multiple graft scandals.

The African National Congress, which has ruled since Nelson Mandela won the post-apartheid 1994 election, is divided over whether Zuma should be “recalled” from his position.

As president, Zuma had been due to deliver the State of the Nation address to parliament in Cape Town on Thursday.

But the party’s national executive committee, its highest decision-making body, will hold a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss his possible removal.

“We thought that we needed to create room for establishing a much more conducive political atmosphere in parliament,” parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete said.

“When we met the president this afternoon, we then learnt that he was already writing to parliament to ask for the postponement.

“A new date for the state of the nation address will be announced very soon.”

The 80-member ANC committee meeting on Wednesday could “recall” Zuma from office — an instruction he could constitutionally refuse to obey, triggering political chaos.

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte told reporters that senior party officials had discussed Zuma’s future on Monday.

“It was discussed at a great deal of length. I can say to you that there are different views,” she said.

Many ANC members are pushing for Cyril Ramaphosa, the new head of the party, to replace Zuma, 75, as president immediately.

But Zuma loyalists have said that the serving president should complete his second and final term in office, which would end when elections are held next year.

Duarte confirmed that if Zuma resigned, deputy president Ramaphosa would automatically take office.

“What we are hoping for is that the NEC (national executive committee) will emerge with a united view on this matter,” she said.

The power struggle has rocked the ANC, the much-celebrated liberation party that led the fight against white-minority rule but which has since lost much of its public support.

“Jacob Zuma is not just a pushover,” Xolani Dube, an analyst with the Xubera think-tank in Durban, said.

“He is not someone who respects Ramaphosa because Ramaphosa has not gone through all the rituals to become an ANC president... he was not in prison, he was not in exile.”

Zuma faces several court cases, including the matter of 783 payments he allegedly received linked to an arms deal before he came to power in 2009.

Many graft allegations against him have centered on the wealthy Gupta family, who are accused of unfairly obtaining lucrative government contracts and even being able to choose ministerial appointments.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, which promotes the legacy of South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon, called on Tuesday for Zuma to be ousted as he had “demonstrated that he is not fit to govern”. — AFP


30 views