The African National Congress (ANC) has given President Jacob Zuma an ultimatum to resign as head of state by the end of Tuesday or risk being removed by Parliament.
ANC secretary general Ace Magashule delivered Zuma’s recall letter to the presidential guesthouse on Tuesday morning after the party’s highest decision-making body, the national executive committee (NEC), decided after a marathon meeting that he should go.
News24 has reliably learned that the balance of forces in the governing party had shifted "overwhelmingly" against Zuma and there was little sympathy for his perceived defiance of the ANC.
"Zuma is very emotional. He is speaking through the heart now. He is angry," an inside source with knowledge of the discussions with Zuma said.
The ANC is scheduled to announce its decision to recall Zuma at 14:00.
Zuma refused to resign during a terse meeting with ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa and other top officials at the presidential guesthouse late on Monday night. Ramaphosa was delegated by the party to inform Zuma of his imminent recall.
The meeting came after Ramaphosa failed to convince Zuma to resign voluntarily. Ramaphosa told the NEC that Zuma had insisted on a three months' "notice period" to hand over the running of the state to his deputy. This was rejected by the NEC.
"He was given one last chance to resign, but he refused. He was very emotional," said the source. Zuma told Ramaphosa that he would respond publicly to an official letter from the ANC that recalls him, if the party decided to go that way.
Ramaphosa and his colleagues returned to the NEC meeting at Saint George Hotel outside Pretoria, where it was formally decided to recall Zuma.
Loud applause for Ramaphosa
According to inside sources, Ramaphosa was widely praised by the NEC for the way in which he has handled the matter. "Cyril got loud applause. People appreciated that he tried to avoid this thing from happening (the recall)."
Another NEC source described Zuma as impossible. "He has literally shown the NEC the middle finger. We were exhausted and emotional."
His approach caused former Zuma supporters like Fikile Mbalula, Pam Tshwete, Collen Maine and Nomvula Mokonyane to speak in favour of a recall. "Pam Tshwete used to insult us (Ramaphosa supporters) in NEC meetings in defence of Zuma. We were surprised," said an NEC member.
On Tuesday morning, Zuma was told that he had until the end of the day to step down.
Motion of no confidence
If Zuma resigns, it will trigger an immediate vacancy in the Presidency which will be filled by Ramaphosa in an acting capacity until he is voted and sworn in as president by Parliament.
If Zuma still refuses to go, the ANC will have to vote him out through a motion of no confidence in Parliament. An Economic Freedom Fighters-sponsored motion is scheduled for February 22, but it is expected that the ANC would want to table its own motion to remove Zuma.
The EFF is expected to insist that its motion be dealt with first, creating the possibility that ANC MPs may have to abstain from voting or vote against the motion if the party insists on removing Zuma through its own motion.
Speaker Baleka Mbete has called a forum of chief whips for 08:00 on Wednesday.