ANC panel is said to meet on Zuma exit

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.

The decision to convene the meeting in the capital, Pretoria, follows talks between the ANC’s top six officials and Zuma on Saturday night to discuss the transition of power to the party’s new leadership, said the people, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. ANC spokesman Pule Mabe confirmed the NEC meeting, while declining to comment further.

The ANC is trying to wrap up a deal for Zuma to resign so that his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, who became the party leader in December, can restore investor confidence and public support for the ANC as it gears up for elections next year. Ramaphosa, a 65-year-old lawyer and one of the richest black South Africans, has pledged to revive the flagging economy and clamp down on the corruption that Zuma’s critics say have become synonymous with his rule.

Speculation that Zuma’s departure is imminent was fueled when Parliament postponed the annual state-of-the-nation address on Feb. 6, two days before Zuma was to deliver it. Ramaphosa, who is due to address a rally in Cape Town later on Sunday, has said talks about a transition of power should conclude in a matter of days.

Should Zuma refuse to obey an instruction by the ruling party’s national executive to step down, it could instruct its lawmakers in parliament to vote him from office.

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. A commission of inquiry is also due to probe allegations he allowed his friends, the Gupta family, to influence government appointments and the awarding of state contracts.

Zuma is being offered the opportunity to escape prosecution if he admits to criminal wrongdoing and testifies against the Guptas under an exit deal being secretly negotiated between him and Ramaphosa, the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times reported, without saying where it got the information. Zuma and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.

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