The ruling African National Congress (ANC) must decide whether Jacob Zuma should see out the remaining two years of his term as the president, said party Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize, a top contender to succeed Zuma as ANC leader in December.
“The ANC will have to take the decision on what happens to the president,” Mkhize said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
“There’s been discussions in the past, there was no agreement that he should be removed, but of course when the matter arises, it’s up the the ANC to take that decision.”
Mkhize, a 61-year-old medical doctor, is a possible compromise choice to maintain unity in the ANC when the party elects new leaders in December.
While the race for the top job is widely seen as a head-to-head contest between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the president’s ex-wife and former chairperson of the African Union Commission, the ANC’s image has suffered from infighting and Zuma’s scandal-ridden presidency.
In 2008, the ANC’s national executive committee forced out then-President Thabo Mbeki as leader of the country, nine months after Zuma defeated him in a vote to become head of the party. Zuma has survived eight attempts by opposition parties in parliament to remove him and at least two revolts by some of the ANC’s most senior leaders in the past year.
“There have been lots of achievements and lots of challenges, and that would happen with a person in that particular position,” Mkhize said of Zuma’s track record as president.
Other contenders to replace Zuma when he is scheduled to step down as ANC leader in December and as president in 2019 include Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, parliamentary speaker Baleka Mbete and Jeff Radebe, a minister in the presidency.
Mkhize said he can keep the ANC together and build unity if elected leader by delegates of the party’s branches at the December conference.
“I have the right qualities to make it on the job, so I’ve given the branches of the ANC the opportunity to select the best amongst us,” he said.
* This article first appeared on Fin24 on 10 October 2017.