Ex-President Jacob Zuma

South Africa’s ruling party decided on Tuesday to sack Jacob Zuma as the country’s president, a senior official said, after a marathon meeting over the fate of a leader whose scandal-plagued years in power darkened and divided Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid ‘Rainbow Nation’.

The decision by the African National Congress’s (ANC) national executive followed 13 hours of tense deliberations and one face-to-face meeting between Zuma and his presumed successor, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Zuma, a polygamous Zulu traditionalist with no formal education, has been living on borrowed time since Ramaphosa, a union leader and lawyer once tipped as Mandela’s pick to take over the reins, was elected as head of the 106-year-old ANC in December.

Ramaphosa narrowly defeated Zuma’s ex-wife and preferred successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in the leadership vote, forcing him to tread carefully in handling Zuma for fear of deepening the rifts in the party a year ahead of an election.

Despite the damning decision to order Zuma’s “recall” – ANC-speak for ‘remove from office’ – domestic media have speculated that the 75-year-old might yet defy the party’s wishes, forcing it into the indignity of having to unseat him in parliament.

Shortly before midnight, the SABC state broadcaster said Zuma had been told in person by Ramaphosa that he had 48 hours to resign. A senior party source later told Reuters Zuma had made clear he was going nowhere.

“Cyril went to speak with him,” the source said, adding that when Ramaphosa returned to the ANC meeting in a Pretoria hotel, the discussions were “tense and difficult”.

“We decided to recall him,” the source said. Another party source said ANC secretary-general and Zuma loyalist Ace Magashule had gone to see Zuma on Tuesday morning to tell him formally of the party’s decision.

The ANC is expected to hold a media briefing in the afternoon to reveal the results of the meeting.

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