South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, ANC, will hold an emergency meeting today (Wednesday), officials said, in a move that could force President Jacob Zuma from office, following increasing protest calling on the president to step down.
Zuma had snubbed ANC stalwarts who had urged him to resign, calling their advised selfish and unpatriotic.
Zuma, whose tenure has been marred by multiple corruption scandals, is due to deliver the annual state of the nation address on Thursday, despite growing calls for him to quit before the speech.
The African National Congress said that its national executive committee would discuss preparations for the address and “management of the transition” of power between Zuma and his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa.
The national executive committee is the ANC’s highest decision-making body and can “recall” Zuma from the post of president — though he could refuse to comply.
Wednesday’s special meeting was announced after top ANC officials gathered at Luthuli House, the party headquarters in Johannesburg, on Monday.
Scuffles erupted outside the building as Zuma supporters clashed with rival ANC activists, with at least one woman kicked and beaten with sticks.
Many ANC members are pushing for Ramaphosa, the new head of the party, to replace Zuma, 75, as president immediately.
However, 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.
Zuma’s presidency has been dominated by corruption scandals. He faces several court cases, including over 783 payments he allegedly received linked to an arms deal before he came to power in 2009.
Many graft allegations against Zuma have centred on the wealthy Gupta family, who are accused of unfairly obtaining lucrative government contracts and even being able to choose ministerial appointments.