South Africa’s ANC backs Zuma after calls for him to quit

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Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa speaks during the Botswana-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Pretoria, South Africa, November 11, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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By TJ Strydom

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said on Tuesday its executive committee had stood by President Jacob Zuma in a debate called after media reported that four ministers had demanded his resgination.

The ANC denied media reports that there had been a formal no-confidence vote in the debate which ended on Monday night.

The rand fell by as much as 2.5 percent against the dollar and bonds weakened as traders had hoped for a resolution to months of political uncertainty in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

Since taking office in 2009, Zuma, 74, has survived several corruption scandals with the backing of senior ANC officials.

“The NEC did not support the call for the president to step down,” ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe told a news conference. “This issue was debated openly, robustly and, as we said, sometimes it was very difficult for members themselves.”

In the run-up to the debate there had been speculation that the ANC would take a no-confidence vote.

“There was no vote of no confidence in that meeting … There was a call for the president to step down, and that call ultimately was not acceded to after persuasion among comrades in the meeting,” Mantashe said.

“The fact that we have not forced a president of the ANC to step down means that we affirm him as the president of the ANC and president of the republic.”

FOUR MINISTERS

Mantashe said officials of the ANC’s national executive committee who called for Zuma to step down would not be punished.

South African media reported on Tuesday, without naming sources, that Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom had proposed holding the vote to oust Zuma, Beeld, an Afrikaans-language daily had reported. Hanekom was unavailable to comment.

Political analysts said Zuma’s leadership would be weakened by the challenge even though he had survived the vote, other media said at least four ministers had turned against him.

Zuma’s presidency has been plagued by accusations of corruption, which the president has repeatedly denied. The nation’s anti-graft watchdog this month asked for a judge to investigate alleged influence-peddling by a wealthy family Zuma has called his friends.

The report by the Public Protector watchdog, released on Nov. 2, focused on allegations that businessman brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta had influenced the appointment of ministers. Zuma and the Gupta brothers have denied any wrongdoing.

($1 = 13.7952 rand)

(Additional reporting by Mfuneko Toyana and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Peter Millership)

 

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