JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, May 28 – South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma faced further opposition at a meeting of his party’s top leadership Sunday but managed to sidestep a no-confidence vote after a turbulent three-day gathering.
The meeting in Pretoria comes as Zuma faces growing criticism within the ruling African National Congress, which sharpened after a March cabinet reshuffle when he sacked respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan.
But plans to debate a no-confidence motion in Zuma were blocked by the chairman of the meeting of the ANC’s executive committee (NEC), state-owned broadcaster SABC said.
Local media reports said several NEC members had tried to force a debate on his future.
Speaking to local media on Saturday, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the leadership was aware of reports that there was going to be blood on the floor.
“We’ve not seen that blood on the floor — yet,” he said, while stressing that the removal of Zuma was “not an agenda item.”
The party leadership was expected to wrap up its talks during the evening.
– ‘In his pocket’ –
The Sunday Times wrote in its leading article that Zuma has survived a string of scandals “precisely because most of the NEC is in his pocket”.
“Although his opponents went to this weekend’s NEC meeting saying they had never felt stronger, few would be surprised if he survived the guillotine again,” it said.
It also published a graphic of supposed support and opposition to Zuma within the 107-member NEC, with 45 against and 41 in favour and the rest unknown.
And City Press said Zuma’s supporters spent Thursday lobbying committee members to back him in the event of a no-confidence motion.
Aside from his woes within the party, which has seen key ANC allies calling for him to stand down, Zuma has faced growing public anger over a series of government graft scandals, record unemployment and a sluggish economy.
The crisis has seen two ratings agencies downgrading South Africa and brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets calling for Zuma’s ouster.
– Till the year’s end –
This weekend’s meeting of the NEC was the first since the controversial cabinet reshuffle, which triggered unprecedented criticism within the ANC.
A string of ANC allies have also urged Zuma to go, among them the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the South African Council of Churches (SACC).
The opposition has also tabled a new no-confidence motion in parliament, which will be debated in the coming weeks.
But the president retains widespread support from ANC members in some rural areas and has been able to rely on lawmakers to survive previous votes of no confidence.
“The party will still want the ANC to remain in control over the broad issue of leadership. The ANC will not wish to look as though either the press or opposition parties… have sufficient influence to precipitate” his removal, independent political analyst Daniel Silke told AFP.
“This will ramble on until the end of the year when the normal electoral process (to pick a successor) will take place.”
The ANC is due to elect Zuma’s successor in December, ahead of general elections in 2019.