Zuma Gains Support From South Africa's ANC Regional Leaders

  • Most provinces accept Zuma apology for home makeover scandal
  • South Africa's top court found president violated constitution

South African President Jacob Zuma has won the backing from most of the ruling African National Congress’s provincial chapters after the nation’s top court said he violated the constitution, narrowing the odds that he’ll be forced from office soon.

Expressions of support from party chapters in six of nine provinces follow calls on Zuma, 74, by ANC veterans, civil rights groups and church leaders to quit office. He’s faced increased pressure to step down since the Constitutional Court ruled on March 31 that he broke the law by not abiding by a directive from the nation’s graft ombudsman to repay taxpayers’ money spent on upgrading his private home. 

A failure by the ANC to take action against Zuma, who has led the party since December 2007, could cost it support in municipal elections that are scheduled to take place on Aug. 3. Opposition parties are seeking to end the ANC’s control of cities including Pretoria, the capital, and Johannesburg, the nation’s main commercial hub, both in Gauteng province.

‘Full Confidence’

“We have got full confidence in President Zuma,” Thabo Meeko, the ANC’s spokesman in the central Free State Province, said by phone on Wednesday. “President Zuma will be president of the country until the next election” in 2019, he said.

Besides Free State, the ANC’s provincial executive committees in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and North West provinces all accepted Zuma’s apology for “the confusion” the scandal had caused and welcomed his pledge to pay back some of the money, as the court ordered. The six provinces accounted for 83 percent of the ANC’s 1.22 million members at the time of the last count in June 2012.

The ANC chapter in Gauteng on Tuesday urged Zuma to “reflect deeply and do the right thing to resolve the unprecedented crisis that the ANC currently faces.” The chapter, which didn’t back Zuma’s re-election as ANC leader in 2012, stopped short of calling on him to resign.

The ANC’s leadership in the Northern Cape province hasn’t met to discuss the Constitutional Court judgment, spokeswoman Naledi Gaosekwe said by phone from the town of Kimberley. While the ANC in the Western Cape will only meet later this month to discuss the ruling, the province probably won’t deviate from the stance taken by the party’s national leadership to support Zuma, spokesman Jabu Mfusi said from Cape Town.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance scrapped plans to stage a march in the southern city of Port Elizabeth on Thursday to demand that Zuma quit or be fired after the ANC-controlled municipality denied it permission. The party will hold a protest in Johannesburg on Friday, while civil-rights groups plan to gather in a number of centers the following day to plan how to force the president from office.

Attempts to oust Zuma would cause political turmoil, the ANC’s Eastern Cape chapter said. 

“We accept that the president demonstrated humility and acted in good faith,” it said in an e-mailed statement. “The apology by the president displays the ANC character of respect and unprecedented courage.”

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