JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s Jacob Zuma faces a no-confidence vote this month, a new attempt to unseat the president by opponents emboldened by splits within his own party.
Zuma, who is battling corruption allegations, is in a weakened position since he was replaced as leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in December by Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy president.
The 75-year-old president is expected to meet the ANC’s six most powerful officials this weekend, but the agenda of the meeting has not been disclosed. Ramaphosa, 65, has been lobbying the ANC’s national executive to force Zuma to resign.
The ANC has said it has discussed Zuma resigning before the end of his term in mid-2019, although his staunch supporters within the party say that will not happen.
Zuma, who has not said whether he will step down voluntarily before his second term as president ends, has been deserted by several prominent allies in the ANC since Ramaphosa took over leadership of what is the only party to govern South Africa since the end of apartheid.
On Friday, parliament speaker Baleka Mbete agreed to a request from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) for a motion of no-confidence, though she refused to hold the vote before the president’s state of the nation address on Feb. 8, and scheduled it for Feb. 22.
The rand, which tends to strengthen on signs Zuma could leave office, pared losses on the announcement from parliament.
Investors associate Zuma’s tenure with a period of economic decline, with growth slowing to an average of 1.5 percent a year and unemployment up to 28 percent from around 23 percent when he took office in 2009.
Zuma narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in August, when some ANC lawmakers voted with the opposition.
“STATE CAPTURE” INQUIRY
He has survived several no-confidence votes during his rule thanks to loyal voting by ANC lawmakers, who form a strong parliamentary majority. Although Zuma retains the support of a faction within the ANC, he no longer holds a top post.
In its letter requesting the vote, the EFF said Zuma was not a suitable head of state as he is likely to be embroiled in a judicial inquiry into state corruption. Zuma has denied any wrongdoing.
“The majority of parliament is going to say that Jacob Zuma will not be the president of South Africa because the biggest sentiment, even in the ANC, is saying that Jacob Zuma cannot continue as president,” EFF Deputy President Floyd Shivambu told eNCA television.
Zuma agreed to establish the inquiry into “state capture”, a South African term for government corruption, last month.
Another opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), had lobbied speaker Mbete to postpone the state of the nation address until Zuma had been removed from office.
On Thursday, Mbete said she was aware of “processes going on, every day and every night” over Zuma’s future but he was due to read the state of the nation speech next Thursday as he was still head of state.
Lukhona Mnguni, political analyst at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said Zuma could take his chances and wait for the no-confidence motion rather than decide to resign.
“Zuma might want to take his chances with the motion and see how many ANC members will come to vote with the opposition and those that would still vote to support him,” Mnguni said.
Additional reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia and Janet Lawrence