South Africa's Ramaphosa clears diary, pushing for Zuma…

ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa leaving a church service in Cape Town

ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa leaving a church service in Cape Town

South Africa's ruling African National Congress has called a meeting of its national executive committee, its top decision-making panel, on Monday, after President Jacob Zuma defied calls by the party's top leadership to step down, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Ramaphosa told the rally at the Grand Parade the ANC NEC would finalise the matter in the interest of the country, not an individual.

The National Prosecuting Authority is due to decide within weeks whether Zuma will face multiple charges of bribery and corruption related to an arms deal in the 1990s.

The occasion of Ramaphosa's speech was heavy with symbolism because he spoke from the same balcony where Mandela spoke on February 11, 1990, after he was released from prison by the white minority government of the time.

He pledged to tackle the corruption that has marred Mr Zuma's time in office.

The committee could recall the president from office, though he would be under no constitutional obligation to obey the order.

Correspondents say that if the NEC agrees to recall Mr Zuma, it would be very hard for him to resist.

The decision comes after almost five days of talks between Zuma and the deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over the leadership of the ANC in December.

To carry out Mandela's legacy, the ANC must fight corruption, Ramaphosa said. Nelson Mandela was totally committed against corruption, theft and robbery of the assets of our people. The rally Sunday marked the start of a series of events to celebrate the centenary of Mandela's birth. "We have a new mood right across the country, we can capture that mood and move forward", Ramaphosa said.

It is understood that a key sticking point in the negotiations is the potentially ruinous legal fees Zuma is facing from prolonged court battles against multiple criminal cases.

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte recently insisted that Zuma will not step down in 2018, however, and there will not be a government shake-up.

Zuma has not spoken publicly since being asked to resign by senior ANC officials on February 4. In 2008 Thabo Mbeki stood down as president a year before the end of his term after the ruling party formally requested his resignation over allegations he had misused his power.

Under Zuma, the ANC suffered its worst electoral setback since coming to power under Mandela in 1994, winning less than 54 percent of the vote in municipal elections in 2016.

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