Impasse deepens as Zuma clings to power

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s political impasse deepened on Saturday with no resolution to extended talks over President Jacob Zuma’s expected departure from office after his own party called for him to resign. Cyril Ramaphosa, the president-in-waiting, and the ruling ANC party have said negotiations should be concluded within days, but have given no details on how Zuma will be eased out of power. The stalemate has left South Africa’s political scene in limbo, with a series of public events cancelled this week including Thursday’s State of the Nation address to parliament in Cape Town.
Zuma cleared his diary of weekend engagements, but his deputy Ramaphosa is to speak at a rally in the city on Sunday to kick off a year of celebrations marking 100 years since Nelson Mandela’s birth.
February 11 also marks the day Mandela was released from jail in 1990 — a key date in modern South Africa’s re-birth as apartheid white-minority rule crumbled.
“We are confident when (Zuma and Ramaphosa) finish they’ll give South Africa a positive way forward,” Environment Minister Edna Molewa said on Saturday.
“We are really saying: ‘Just be patient’.”
Susan Booysen, a politics professor from Wits University in Johannesburg, said Zuma may fight on for several more days.
“A stalemate is the best description for the situation,” she said.
“Zuma is a fighter to the end and is refusing to resign, while Ramaphosa doesn’t want to be divisive.
“Zuma pretended to open the doors of negotiations, but he is digging in.”
Local media said a key sticking point was the legal fees faced by Zuma, who is set for prolonged court battles related to multiple criminal cases.
One relates to 783 payments he allegedly received linked to an arms deal before he came to power.
The ANC has insisted there will be no delay to the budget on February 21.
Ramaphosa has made no official comment since Wednesday when he pledged “a speedy resolution of the matter” and Zuma has not spoken since being asked to resign by senior ANC officials on February 4.
On Friday, the president reportedly flew back from Cape Town to his official residence in Pretoria, with the pro-Zuma New Age newspaper saying he would gather his family there over the weekend to inform them of his decision.
The same day, Zuma’s wife Thobeka Madiba-Zuma posted a picture of the couple on Instagram with a defiant warning against “picking a fight with someone who is not fighting you”.
In office since 2009, the 75-year-old has clung to power despite a string of corruption scandals, an economic slowdown and record unemployment.
But his hold on the ANC was shaken in December, when his chosen successor — his former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma — narrowly lost out to Ramaphosa in a closely-fought race for the party leadership.
Many of the recent graft allegations against Zuma are linked to the Guptas, a wealthy Indian business family accused of improperly winning government contracts and influencing cabinet appointments. — AFP