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South Africa's Ruling Party Demands That Country's President Resign


At least for now, Jacob Zuma is still the president of South Africa. This is despite the fact that his own party, the African National Congress, ordered him to resign from office today. They want him to step down immediately for the sake of the country, they say. He's been dogged by scandals for years.

Joining us now from Johannesburg to explain all this is Peter Granitz. Hi, Peter.


SHAPIRO: The African National Congress, the ANC, has been in power in South Africa since the end of apartheid. Why are they ordering their own president to step down right now?

GRANITZ: They are forcing Jacob Zuma out of power because he is wildly unpopular. He has been facing corruption allegations for as long as he's been in office, which is almost nine years. The party goes to elections next year, and they know that without Jacob Zuma in control of the country, in control of the government, the party has a better chance of retaining power without Jacob Zuma as president.

SHAPIRO: So if he's lost the confidence of the people and he's lost the confidence of his own party, how does he stay in power?

GRANITZ: That's what everybody really wants to know. He is - he - apparently he asked the ANC for an extra three to six months. They ruled that out. They said, no, your time is up. It's time for you to resign. They did not give him a timeline, though. They said, we want you to step down. They did not tell him when he needs to do it. One of the reasons that people think he's trying to stay in power as long as he can is that he's facing potentially very serious legal and criminal charges. And if he's president, he has a better chance of the government footing his legal bills. And he needs the support.

SHAPIRO: Well, what if he refuses to leave? Can they force him out?

GRANITZ: This has never been tested before. His predecessor was recalled by the ANC, and he stepped down within a couple of days. The only organization, the only mechanism to remove him would be through Parliament either through an impeachment or through a no-confidence vote. Opposition parties have scheduled a no-confidence vote for later this month. They are incredibly excited about the opportunity to finally remove Jacob Zuma from office. But it may not come to that because Jacob Zuma is expected to make some kind of statement in the coming days, and maybe he'll resign.

SHAPIRO: If Jacob Zuma refuses to leave office, could this undermine some of the principles of democracy that South Africa operates under?

GRANITZ: It absolutely could. And South Africa is seen as - it has its problems, but it's seen as a very stable democracy on the continent, perhaps more so than any other country. And other countries look to South Africa for guidance on issues of democracy and governance. And if it gets to the point that he is holding on too long, the ANC will step in and instruct its members in Parliament to remove him from office. I don't think Jacob Zuma wants to get that far, but he's really unpredictable.

SHAPIRO: That's Peter Granitz reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa. Thanks very much.

GRANITZ: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Granitz