The ANC’s executive committee decided to recall Zuma after more than eight years in power at a marathon meeting that stretched into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Recalling Zuma is a powerful statement that the ANC no longer backs the President, but it alone will not force him out of office — Zuma must either resign or face a vote of no confidence in Parliament.
But the move has cornered the leader. The ANC holds power in Parliament and without overwhelming party support, Zuma will lose the confidence vote.
A no-confidence vote is scheduled for February 22 but opposition politicians were also pushing for the vote to happen this week. Zuma’s term had been due to end next year.
“South Africa’s going through a period of uncertainty and anxiety as a result of the unresolved matter of transition,” said the ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule at a press conference Tuesday, where he announced the decision.
He said that a delegation had been sent to brief Zuma, and said that the President had requested a transition period of three to six months, which the party did not agreed to.
The ANC’s announcement follows weekend meetings between Zuma and his Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, who took the reins as ANC leader in December.
Ramaphosa said on Sunday that the uncertainty over Zuma’s future had damaged the the ANC, which led South Africa out of apartheid and into a new era.
Zuma, 75, had clung to power despite being mired in a slew of corruption scandals and survived opposition parties’ attempts to oust him. His ability to survive them earned him the nickname “Teflon President.”
Zuma faces more than 780 allegations of corruption relating to a 1990s arms deal. Zuma denies all the corruption allegations against him.