As pressure mounts for South African President Jacob Zuma to resign, the country’s Catholic Bishops have called on him to “act as an Elder Statesman and put the good of the country first”.
In an unprecedented move, the speaker of the South African Parliament announced on Tuesday that Zuma’s state of the nation address to parliament on Thursday, has been postponed.
Senior leaders of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) met Zuma over the weekend to ask him to step down. Local media reported that the 75-year-old president, who is battling corruption allegations, refused.
A meeting of party leaders scheduled for today (7 February) was cancelled after an evening meeting between Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected ANC leader in December and has been Zuma’s deputy since 2014.
Accompanying their call for the embattled President to put the “good of the country first”, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) implored “all engaged in political decisions regarding the future role of President Zuma to exercise calm and patience.”
“We pray that the ruling party find a quick solution to the present problem of transition of power for the sake of our people who struggle with poverty and unemployment,” continues the 5 February statement, signed by Archbishop William Slattery, SACBC spokesman.
Zuma had led the ANC since 2007 and has been South Africa’s president since 2009. His tenure in both posts has been marred by a series of corruption scandals that have undermined the image of the party that led South Africans to freedom in 1994.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation called on Tuesday for Zuma to be ousted.
In a statement, the foundation said there was “overwhelming evidence that systematic looting by patronage networks linked to President Zuma have betrayed the country Nelson Mandela dreamed of”.
Were Zuma to agree – or be forced - to step down, his premature departure (his second five-year term is due to expire in 2019) would mean Ramaphosa would become president, in accordance with the constitution.
Supporters of Ramaphosa say it is essential that Zuma is sidelined as early as possible to allow the ANC to regroup before campaigning starts for elections in 2019.
PICTURE: South African President Jacob Zuma addresses the conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dec. 16, 2017 ©PA