February 9, 2018 / 7:06 AM / 6 months ago

South Africa's Ramaphosa pursues 'pressing matters' in push for Zuma exit

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - African National Congress (ANC) leader Cyril Ramaphosa pulled out of public events to focus on “pressing matters” on Friday, fuelling speculation that Ramaphosa was making a final push to force Jacob Zuma to step down as South Africa’s head of state.

Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa leaves Tuynhuys, the office of the Presidency at Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Zuma, in power since 2009 and battling corruption allegations, has been living on borrowed time since Ramaphosa replaced him as leader of the ruling party in December.

Ramaphosa and members of the ANC’s ‘Top Six’ most powerful officials had been due to visit Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and supporters at various events in Cape Town. But an ANC spokesman said they would not participate in those events due to “other pressing matters”.

An ANC official in the Western Cape province said the schedule changes related to the party’s push to force Zuma to stand down.

“We all know and anticipate that they are dealing with the current issue that is facing our country,” Faiez Jacobs, the party’s provincial secretary, told eNCA television.

South African President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, are seen attending Cabinet Committee meetings in this government handout picture, in Cape Town, South Africa, February 7, 2018. GCIS/Handout via REUTERS

Ramaphosa has been lobbying for Zuma to resign and has said he hopes to conclude talks with him over a transition of power “in coming days...in the interests of the country.”

A spokesman for Ramaphosa, who also serves as South Africa’s deputy president, said the ANC leader no longer had any public engagements on Friday or Saturday. He said Ramaphosa had returned Gauteng province, where the ANC’s headquarters is located in the country’s commercial capital Johannesburg.

Zuma’s spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The rand ZAR=D3, which has tended to strengthen on signs that Zuma could step down before his second term as president ends next year, rose on Friday as investors increased bets that Ramaphosa would be able to unseat the embattled Zuma.

Ramaphosa is due to give a speech on Sunday as part of year-long celebrations to mark 100 years since the birth of liberation hero Nelson Mandela.

Zuma had been due to officiate at a diplomatic awards ceremony in Cape Town on Saturday, according to his office, but that event has been postponed.

Zuma has been South Africa’s most controversial president since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, overseeing a tumultuous nine years marked by economic decline and numerous allegations of corruption.

Reporting by Ed Stoddard in Cape Town and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg; Editing by James Macharia, William Maclean

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