• President says the ANC has to decide on his future, not him
  • A premature ANC succession debate is not helpful, Zuma says

South African President Jacob Zuma pulled back from comments that he would “never, ever” stand for a third term as leader of the ruling African National Congress.

In an interview at his Pretoria residence Tuesday, Zuma, 73, said he’ll be guided by the ANC on whether to stay on as leader of the party that has dominated South African politics since the end of white minority rule in 1994. The Johannesburg-based Mail & Guardian newspaper on Oct. 10 quoted Zuma as saying that he would “never, ever” stand for a third term “even if they beg me.”

“If there was any remark of that nature, it was a remark made, but not within how the ANC does things,” Zuma said about his comments to the Mail & Guardian. “Even the president has no right to take his own decision. We don’t act as individuals, the ANC guides us. When the time comes the ANC will direct us.”

Given that Zuma will reach the end of his constitutional two-term limit as the head of state and government in 2019, his continuation as ANC leader runs the risk of creating confusion about where control over policies lies. The ANC decided in 2007 to avoid that scenario by pledging to ensure “one center of power.”

“It would become difficult,” Aubrey Matshiqi, an analyst at the Johannesburg-based Helen Suzman Foundation said Wednesday in a phone interview. “That leaves a lot of room for tension to arise.”

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