South Africa was on tenterhooks on Wednesday morning waiting to hear the latest on President Jacob Zuma’s exit from office.
On Tuesday, after a sensational turn of events, the ANC announced dramatically that it had cancelled a national executive committee meeting, which had been expected to take a final decision to recall Zuma as president.
The cancellation raised hopes that an announcement, possibly about Zuma’s resignation, would be made on Wednesday to calm the stormy political waters. Zuma refused to resign after being approached by the party on Sunday.
In a late press statement, the ANC said the national executive committee postponement “follows fruitful and constructive engagements, on various issues, held earlier today by the president of the ANC, Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa and the president of the republic, Comrade Jacob Zuma”.
The national executive committee will now meet, as scheduled, in a special meeting on February 17.
On Tuesday afternoon, Parliament’s presiding officers, Baleka Mbete and Thandi Modise, dramatically announced the postponement of the state of the nation address on the steps of the National Assembly building and cited “the mood of the country” and concerns raised by stakeholders including political developments among their considerations.
“We have been dismayed in the past four years at the disruption, anarchy and chaos that have been characteristic of this annual joint sitting which, in some way, marks the opening of Parliament. Reporting through Parliament on the state of the nation is a critical accountability action by the executive and it must happen. Developments this year, particularly the calls for disruption and or postponement of the joint sitting, have, therefore, caused us great concern,” said Mbete, reading from a prepared statement.
“We have, regrettably, come to the conclusion that there is little likelihood of an uneventful joint sitting of Parliament this coming Thursday,” she added.
When pushed by journalists as to whether developments within the ANC, which include meetings to discuss Zuma had influenced their decision, Mbete responded in the affirmative saying the importance of developments within the body politic was a factor.
“It is always a factor.”
Tuesday was also marked by a number of fake news which were distributed. This included a purported presidency statement that Russian president Valdimir Putin would visit South Africa this weekend. This was strenuously denied by the presidency. The office of the president also rubbished an allegation by the South African Communist Party that Zuma was set to fire Ramaphosa as deputy.
“The allegations reported in the media that President Jacob Zuma wishes to fire Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and replace him with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are preposterous and outrageous. The allegations are completely baseless.”
Meanwhile, the Presidency confirmed on Tuesday morning that Zuma would continue to chair the routine meetings of Cabinet committees as scheduled.
The Cabinet committees sitting today include the economic sectors, employment and infrastructure development and the international cooperation, trade and security.
A routine Cabinet meeting was to take place next week.
The meetings of Cabinet committees take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to process matters that will be taken to Cabinet.