South Africa’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Wednesday vowed a “speedy resolution” to talks on the future of embattled leader Jacob Zuma, expected to step down after mounting political turmoil.
President Zuma is under growing pressure to quit in favour of Ramaphosa, his deputy and African National Congress (ANC) party leader, with local media suggesting an exit deal is being hammered out.
Ramaphosa said that postponing a meeting on Wednesday of top ANC officials would “enable President Zuma and myself to conclude our discussions… in the coming days”.
The discussions were constructive and lay the basis for a speedy resolution of the matter in the interests of the country and the people.
The presidency released pictures of the two men sitting together and smiling at a cabinet committee meeting in Cape Town.
“The discussions were constructive and lay the basis for a speedy resolution of the matter in the interests of the country and the people,” Ramaphosa said.
The announcement that the ANC’s national executive, which has the power to recall Zuma, would not meet as scheduled on Wednesday followed the dramatic cancellation of a key parliament speech by the president.
Zuma had been due to deliver the State of the Nation address on Thursday, a speech that sets the government’s priorities for the year ahead.
The president asked to postpone it, apparently fearing his continuing hold on the presidency would enrage some of his own ANC lawmakers as well as opposition parties.
The delay heightened speculation that Zuma could finally yield to calls to step down.
Many ANC members are pushing for Cyril Ramaphosa, the new head of the party since December, 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.
The Business Day newspaper said in its editorial that postponement of the presidential speech showed “the resolve that now exists in the ANC to remove Zuma and install Cyril Ramaphosa in his place”.
Zuma is currently battling several legal battles including the possibility of reinstatement of over 700 corruption charges against him.
His relationship with the Gupta brothers is also at the center of a commission of inquiry into ‘state capture’ report that was produced by the country’s former prosecutor Thuli Madonsela.